Matt Lewis

In blaming Rick Perry, Herman Cain risks alienating conservatives

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

One of the curious developments this week has been how — in a matter of days — many conservative pundits have gone from defending Herman Cain to criticizing him. One prominent conservative blogger — RedState’s Erick Erickson — has penned a sharp rebuke of Cain’s recent attempts at crisis management. Erickson’s thoughts might help explain the phenomenon.

Erickson writes,

… in blaming the Perry campaign with no more evidence than those blaming Romney have (several National Restaurant Association current or former executives are Romney supporters), the Cain campaign has managed to take a unified front in defense of him, divide it up, and come off looking like he’d be perfectly okay with Mitt Romney as the nominee so long as no one else but him could be the alternative.

This strikes me as a smart analysis.

So long as Cain were attacking the liberal media, he could count on most conservatives to defend him. But once he began accusing Rick Perry (without any conclusive evidence), he immediately alienated two groups: Conservatives who like Perry — and conservatives who were otherwise neutral — but who now view Perry as the only viable alternative to Mitt Romney.

It will be interesting to see how pundits such as Rush Limbaugh respond to this.

Erickson continues,

If we believe Herman Cain — that it was Curt Anderson who is now with Perry and that Herman Cain told Curt Anderson about it in 2003 — then we are left with two great puzzles, both of which are vastly more destructive to the Cain campaign than the original story.

… how is it that the Herman Cain campaign knew this was coming since at least 2003 and had no plan in place to deal with it.

It is entirely possible for Cain to be innocent of the actual charges, and yet to have disqualified himself based on his mishandling of the crisis.

And as Erickson points out, in preparing for another campaign eight years ago, Cain brought up the sexual harassment issue to his staff as a potential vulnerability.

How could he have possibly thought it would be an issue for a U.S. senate race — but not relevant to mention during a run for the presidency?