GOP candidates mum on Cain allegations

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Cain took a lighthearted jab at Paul on Monday during an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute, dropping Paul's name when asked which of the GOP candidates he would dress up as for Halloween to scare voters.

While the Cain fiasco is welcome news for his 2012 opponents, they are unlikely to risk getting hit by the backfire by piling on too early. The strategy appears to be to get out of the way and hope Cain's campaign self-destructs, rather than be seen as knocking him while he's down, giving voice to unsubstantiated allegations or focusing on personal attacks.

At some point, the allegations against Cain will become unavoidable when the other candidates are asked about them during public campaign trail appearances.

All of the presidential candidates stand to gain if the reports undercut Cain's position at the head of the GOP field. A minor player in the presidential race just weeks ago, Cain has surged to first place, taking 24 percent of Republican voters to Mitt Romney's 20 percent in a Fox News poll released Oct. 26. Cain also topped a poll of Iowa caucus-goers released Monday by The Des Moines Register, showing dominance in a crucial early state.

If the sexual harassment claims lead to a Cain collapse, the candidates on the more conservative end of the GOP spectrum — Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann — stand a chance of peeling off voters who defect from Cain's camp.

Cain's closest competitor, Romney, would benefit the most from Cain losing steam in the polls. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey released Oct. 11 showed that more voters listed Romney as their second choice than they did Cain or any of the other candidates, indicating that in a race without Cain, Romney might find a bigger pool of voters willing to consider his campaign.