The 2012 presidential campaign was upended this week amid accusations that one of the high-profile candidates had engaged in inappropriate behavior involving inappropriate gestures, uncomfortable comments and all-around improper conduct.
Yes, it was difficult to watch Rick Perry’s continuing downward spiral with his odd appearance before a conservative audience in New Hampshire last weekend. In the somewhat manic speech—which went viral faster than the double rainbow video— Perry can be seen bouncing around and giggling, pointing at nobody, pulling postcards out of his suit pocket and giddily accepting a bottle of maple syrup from his host. Due to his erratic laughing episodes during the speech, many in the media speculated that he was either drunk or at least loopy from pain medication. Both of those explanations, it turned out, were false. By late in the week, Perry and his aides made clear that the speech was Perry’s attempt to appear more likable. (It’s never good when a campaign has to assert that, no, its candidate wasn’t intoxicated—it only seemed that way.) What we are witnessing is a desperate man with nothing left to lose—and that can sometimes be the most dangerous kind of candidate.
And on Monday, to Perry’s potential benefit, Politico published a story that could bring down frontrunner Herman Cain. And that was just the beginning… .
Politico revealed that Cain had been accused by two female employees of engaging in inappropriate and sexually suggestive behavior during his tenure as CEO of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. The women, whose identities were not disclosed, accepted financial payments to leave the group and signed confidentiality agreements. Naturally Cain denied the allegations, suggesting that they were racially motivated with the encouragement of a handful of conservative pundits. On Wednesday, however, the AP reported that a third woman has come forward to say that Cain made sexually suggestive remarks to her, even inviting her to his corporate apartment. To make matters worse (yes, things can always get worse, and they usually do), a conservative radio host in Iowa said that Cain once made comments to a woman who worked for him that made her “uncomfortable,” and a Republican pollster (now affiliated with the Perry campaign) who once worked with the association said that it was “only a matter of time” before accusations such as these were made public.
In a delicious little twist, Cain is now accusing the Perry camp of being behind the story and the original report leaked to Politico. A carefully orchestrated move by the Perry campaign? Please. They’re too busy trying to reign in their rogue candidate and hoping to break into double-digits in the polls. It’s not looking good for Cain as more details of the scandal emerge. However it remains to be seen whether Cain’s misfortune will benefit Perry, or if Perry is too far gone.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national survey of likely Republican voters still shows Cain on top with 26 percent, three points above Mitt Romney, who just keeps chugging along with the same 23 percent. The poll was conducted Wednesday night, three days after the sexual harassment allegations surfaced. The poll has Newt Gingrich in third with 14 percent while Perry registered 8 percent. So even with the scandal factored in, Perry comes in fourth. He just can’t win. (No, really. He can’t win.)
Meanwhile a UT/Texas Tribune poll conducted in late October found that Cain and Perry were in a virtual dead heat in Texas, 27 to 26 percent.
Luckily the Perry machine is still cranking out the funds for the campaign. The Make Us Great Again super PAC released TV ads in South Carolina (“Leadership”) and Iowa (“Conservative”) this week emphasizing balanced budgets and spending cuts and, naturally, the fact that Perry’s father was a tenant farmer. How long will fundraisers continue to bankroll his campaign? Are they waiting to see if Romney faces sexual harassment allegations? That might make him more interesting to the electorate.
It’s hard to imagine that things could get much worse for Perry. One of his rivals is in the midst of a massive sex scandal and people are still talking about Perry’s bizarre speech. But if Perry gets nothing else from his run at the White House, he at least has that New Hampshire maple syrup as a consolation prize.