Opinion Brief

The Cain effect: Will GOP voters focus more on 'character'?

As alleged adulterer Herman Cain considers exiting the presidential race, candidates' personal conduct may get more scrutiny, for better or worse

After damning allegations of a 13-year extra-marital affair surfaced Monday, erstwhile GOP frontrunner Herman Cain is "reassessing" whether he will continue his presidential bid — and several pundits are all-but-certain that he'll drop out. If so, the reasons for his exit could change the race more than his actual departure. Will Cain's wearyingly long list of alleged infidelities make "character" more of an issue in the Republican presidential race?

Cain's flailing rivals would be crazy not to seize this opportunity: This is the perfect chance for apparently more virtuous contenders like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to "restate their case to values voters," making these new developments as much about Herman Cain as they are about Newt Gingrich, who also has a spotty relationships record, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. "So long as the discussion is about the personal qualities of candidates and their innate abilities and judgment, Cain — and Gingrich, too — are in an awkward spot."
"Once again, voters must reassess Herman Cain's character"

"Private conduct" is irrelevant: When allegations of Cain's extra-marital affair surfaced, "my brief reaction was… so?" says Robert Schlesinger at U.S. News and World Report. No link exists between private conduct and policy outcomes, and voters who think otherwise are mistaken. "Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, to name two, were unfaithful and still managed to be two of this nation's more important leaders." There are many worrisome problems with Cain's candidacy. "Marital infidelity is not one of them."
"Herman Cain affair allegations are irrelevant"

The partisan media won't be able to help itself: Thanks to the media's bias against conservatives, character will become a bigger issue than ever, says Verum Serum. The accusations against Cain are no worse than those leveled against Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, or John F. Kennedy. The only real difference between those "progressive champions" and Cain is "party affiliation." They all escaped Cain-levels of media vilification because "only one side of the aisle is expected to abide by the rules."
"Cain is reassessing his campaign"

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