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    “Is Herman Cain ready for prime time?”

    “Is Herman Cain ready for prime time?”

    That’s the question David Mark at Politico’s Arena forum asks, with this explanation:

    Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s shifting responses to allegations of sexual harassment dating to his time as president of the National Restaurant Association have left his campaign reeling.

    Has Cain’s campaign done itself politically mortal harm by not delivering a clear and consistent response to the original POLITICO story? Or might this episode actually help Cain by creating sympathy among conservatives over investigative reporting by “liberal media”?

    As you know, although I have been critical of Politico’s news operations, I joined Politico’s Arena so that my voice could be heard there.  Here is my answer at Politico:

    There is no question that Cain fumbled the initial handling of the story. He lacks the communications team needed to deal with the type of scrutiny some presidential candidates receive.

    That said, the way in which POLITICO rolled out the story, structured for a Monday morning news frenzy with vague allegations seemingly intended to smoke out the story rather than report it, and teams of reporters ready to appear on every cable show that would have them, transformed the story into an attempt to take down a candidate not report. POLITICO seemed just a bit too joyful.

    That POLITICO’s coverage now focuses on the inconsistencies from the Cain campaign in the opening hours, rather than on the facts some of which POLITICO apparently refuses to disclose, feeds into a narrative that is helpful for Cain: He is the target of a mainstream media that scrutinizes the lives of conservative candidates with joyful abandon yet steers clear of similar inquiry into the life and associations of Barack Obama.


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    The question is a fair one, although Politico clearly has no interest in that.

    As I’ve commented previously, Cain is an accidental frontrunner. His campaign never anticipated or prepared for these sorts of issues. As an influence candidate, he has not been running to win.

    Cain’s problem is the nature of his campaign and whether or not he really is a serious candidate or an influence candidate. What we have been observing are the symptoms of this problem (which goes beyond this attack).

    It is possible that Cain might be able to use this attack — if it is as baseless at it appears to be — to transform his campaign into a serious run.

    Or he may not.

    The fact is that we don’t yet know what sort of candidate Cain is because he has not been running as a serious candidate. In a preverse way, Politico’s attack may be helping us find out.

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