By Cheri Jacobus - 12/01/11 11:28 PM EST
It’s almost as painful to watch someone unravel who doesn’t know it’s time to go as it is exhilarating to watch someone who needs to go, announce he is, indeed, going. We saw both this week.
As of this writing, GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain swears he is staying in the race, despite the latest in a spate of woman problems. After several women publicly claimed they had been sexually harassed by the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and head of the National Restaurant Association, yet another woman has come forth alleging a 13-year consensual sexual affair with Cain that ended only months ago. Cain denies all allegations, but the early stumbles, mumbles and lack of clarity in his non-denial denials is what has likely hurt him the most and driven down his poll numbers.
After a day of asserting that he would take time to “reassess” his campaign, which sounded like code for “devise a graceful exit strategy,” Cain proudly pivoted, declaring he was a victim of character assassination by Republicans and Democrats, and was staying in the race. The collective exhale of the GOP was aborted.
Cain has become an unwelcome distraction in a primary contest that is becoming more serious and focused. He needs to swallow his pride, end his candidacy, and unlike politicians who unconvincingly insist they are leaving to spend more time with their families, in this case, Cain should genuinely do so.
While his candidacy was interesting and exciting — if poorly managed — it’s hard to ignore his nosedive in the polls. According to Gallup, Cain’s “positive intensity” — defined as “the percentage of Republican/Republican leaners with a strongly favorable opinion of a candidate, minus the percentage with a strongly unfavorable opinion” — has dropped 25 percent since the allegations surfaced in October.
This week, 16-term liberal Democratic Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) announced he would not seek reelection to a 17th term. He candidly admitted he simply did not have the fire in the belly to campaign hard in a redrawn congressional district resulting from the 2010 census.
But Frank omitted the glaringly obvious: that much like former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), his culpability in the housing crisis as protecter of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and cheerleader for subprime loans was catching up to him, thus making reelection more difficult, even absent redistricting. What Frank also did not admit was that he misses the gavel. A lot. The former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee’s announcement signaled he did not expect to regain the chairmanship, as he does not expect Democrats to regain the House majority in the foreseeable future. It’s a good guess he didn’t relish dumping another $200,000 of his own cash into his campaign, as he was compelled to do last year when he faced a serious challenge from Republican Sean Bielet. And, as much as Frank enjoys railing against Gingrich, if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee, Massachusetts could be an even chillier place for Democratic politicians — including, and perhaps especially, Frank.
As the top of the ticket has approval numbers lower than President Carter’s at this same point in his term, expect more Democrats to jump ship, rather than go down with it. A new Gallup poll shows President Obama with a scant 43 percent approval rating less than a year out from Election Day. While the Obama campaign strategy to run against Congress is designed to damage Republicans, it will also be a blessed relief to congressional Democrats still smarting from the ObamaCare voter backlash of 2010 to have Obama as far away as possible in the upcoming election year. Perhaps they will “run” against and from him.
Frank clearly understands the obstacles should he have opted to run for reelection. He is not in denial that his career was sputtering. He wisely chose to end it more or less on his own terms.
Cain lacks such self-awareness, but could learn a thing or two from Frank.
Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns and worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.