At this writing, and after a new “bimbo” eruption from an Atlanta woman named Ginger White who claims to have had a 13-year affair with Cain, it isn’t clear if the pizza man will survive. Cain said in New Hampshire Wednesday that he has yet to sit down with his wife Gloria to “walk through this” since the latest allegations surfaced. “I will do that when I get back home on Friday,” Cain said. Good luck with that.
Cain had been leading in polls earlier this fall, but support in places like Iowa appears to be faltering. And that could be Romney’s nightmare if Gingrich can coalesce the Tea Party wing and build momentum. GOP pollster Ed Goeas, in a battleground poll three weeks ago, asked Cain supporters for their second choice: seven percent said Romney, seven percent said Gingrich, five percent said Ron Paul and three percent went for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. And this is a race where Mitch Daniels or Mike Pence could be leading if they had entered.
The riveting question for Hoosier Republicans, many of whom have not taken sides in the race, is whether the new party primary rules and a roiled field will extend the primary season to the May 8 Indiana primary, giving the Grand Old Party a bookend to the historic 2008 Hillary Clinton/Obama showdown. Thus far only U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita has endorsed a presidential candidate (Romney) and Gov. Daniels is staying neutral.
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press earlier this month, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said: “This process is different for Republicans this time. We’re going to have proportion delegate allocation throughout a lot of our process, which we haven’t had. There’s not going to be much incentive to Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum or Rick Perry or Ron Paul to drop because they’ll likely be accruing delegates along the way.”
The Indiana Republican Party observed that RNC rules call for subsequent primary and caucus states after the first wave of states to divide their delegates among the candidates instead of adopting the winner-take-all format that Republicans historically have favored. As a result, it is mathematically impossible for any candidate to accumulate the requisite 1,142 delegates for nomination before March 24, even if that candidate won every vote in every contest from Iowa moving forward. Unless one candidate emerges to score an early knockout, the earliest practical date anyone can reach the magic number is well into April and possibly later. By the time Indiana’s chance arrives, 1,587 delegates would be out, or 70 percent of the total.
As Cain fades and conservatives continue to question Romney’s core beliefs, the party’s turn to Gingrich is fascinating. He may be the GOP’s best ideas man. But his personal record is filled with potholes and pitfalls. He’s on his third marriage – divorcing his first wife while she was in cancer treatment – and had an affair with his current wife during the impeachment of President Clinton.
Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute observed, “Newt is brilliant, but he is a tough candidate for evangelicals to get behind. He’s probably the most pragmatic of the candidates, but they look for principled leaders. Newt’s world view is what works as opposed to what’s right and they aren’t always the same.”
Gingrich rose to power in Congress by taking out Speaker Jim Wright over a book deal, only to have his own book deal challenged several years later. Smith served as U.S. Rep. John Hostettler’s chief of staff when the congressman voted “present” in the 1997 vote for Speaker.
As to where Hoosier evangelicals will end up in the presidential race, Smith said, “There really isn’t someone in the race” for them to support. “They’ll get behind the eventual Republican nominee. I think you can stick a fork in Cain. It’s been a very odd race. It’s moving fast. I’m amazed how fast the information gets absorbed.”
Smith said he believes the presidential race will probably be resolved on Jan. 31 with the Florida primary, with Romney “slogging through.” Chris Chocola of the Club for Growth also expects Romney to be nominated.
But Howard County Republican Chairman Craig Dunn said he believes there’s a good chance the GOP won’t have a nominee by the May 8 primary. “We will be running our Lincoln/Reagan Day late in April just to take advantage of a possible appearance by a presidential contender,” Dunn said.
By then, the GOP may have turned away from Newt, or as The Pythons would say, “I got better.”
(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)