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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cain the Unready

Even if the harassment allegations against Cain prove ill-founded, his response raises serious questions about his readiness. Chris Stirewalt writes:

Despite having known that the story was in the pipeline for weeks, the Cain team and the candidate seemed utterly unprepared for the onslaught that has predictably followed. They have issued evasive denials and immediately gone to political DEFCON 1 by invoking the fricasseeing of Clarence Thomas, also a conservative black man from Georgia, in 1991 for allegations of bawdy talk at his office.

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So how could Cain and his team not have been prepared for this? If there was a payout to these women, which the campaign seems to allow is possible, then how was there no plan in place for this contingency? Surely they long knew that some rival campaign would unearth these allegations and that this would be tremendously dangerous for a candidate who is an ordained minister.

Allegations of physical sexual misconduct would be ruinous for Cain or any candidate on the Republican side, but even bawdy talk of the kind Thomas was accused of would badly undercut Baptist preacher Cain’s image. While some GOP primary voters may celebrate Cain’s lack of political correctness when talking about high-voltage border security or the funny names of America’s allies in Central Asia, they wouldn’t be so forgiving of raunchy language directed at women.

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Which brings us back to Cain campaign manager Mark Block. Block has been busy calling attention to himself and his nicotine cravings, hardly wise if you have played the political game as close to the edge as Block did in his Wisconsin career.

Now, even as Team Cain tries to handle the sexier story of harassment hush money, the more boring claim bubbles up that Block violated federal campaign finance laws by having a company he established in Wisconsin improperly finance Cain’s campaign launch. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the company seems to have existed almost solely for the provision of funds to the Cain campaign. What we don’t know is what matters most: Where did the money come from?

Cain later made denials on Fox News and at the National Press Club. Alexander Burns writes at Politico:

But Cain’s story is still riddled with holes and reversals. He insisted both on Fox and at the Press Club that POLITICO’s story was based on anonymous sources that his campaign didn’t care to answer. But a POLITICO reporter gave Cain’s campaign – and the candidate himself – the name of one of the women who accused him of inappropriate behavior, and Cain still declined to comment in advance of publication.

In POLITICO’s initial report, Cain said through a spokesman he was “vaguely familiar” with harassment allegations dating to the 1990s. Now, he claims absolute certainty in his knowledge of the charges and the subsequent investigation, though not the settlements.

After POLITICO published its report Sunday night, Cain’s campaign told the Associated Press that it was flatly denying the contents. Today, Cain has confirmed much of the core of the story and denied knowledge of the rest.

And even setting aside all that, Cain hasn’t yet addressed what the allegations of harassment against him involved, how many women made accusations, what the NRA investigation showed or how he, as president of the National Restaurant Association, could have been unaware of multiple five-figure payouts to employees who left the group.