Jacob Heilbrunn

Herman Cain's Bimbo Eruptions

Herman Cain has found his Paula Jones. In a normal election year, Cain would be finished. But this isn't a normal election.  Cain isn't going anywhere, though Mitt Romney is surely gloating over the spate of accusations that his rival is trying to fend off.

Cain's poll numbers don't seem to be sinking. On the contrary, they're holding steady. He's still a leader of the pack, whether the GOP establishment likes it or not. Cain has several advantages over his competitors. The first advantage is that he knows how to speak fluently. Most of his rivals do not. Romney is scripted. Cain, by contrast, can speak with genuine passion, which is why his followers are so passionate about him. Another advantage is the one pointed to by the Atlantic, which says that Cain is a fund-raising "dynamo." His resources, if he finishes strong in Iowa, could allow him to plague Romney for the long haul. Maybe he will even come in first in Iowa. Given the volatile temperament of the electorate, almost no outcome is too outlandish to consider.

The one thing that does seem to have Cain somewhat tongue-tied, however, is the series of accusations being peddled against him as a serial sexual predator. He's, well, groping for a response. For now, he says it ain't so and wants to leave it at that. But the media won't. The show not only must but also will go on. What could be a more telling sign of the degeneration of American politics into full-time entertainment? The entire seamy affair, so to speak, is catnip for the press—it's Gary Hart and Bill Clinton all over again, except that now it has hit the Republican primary. Cain's behavior, as described, imputed, or whatever term you wish to employ, is, to use an old phrase, Clintonian.

Clinton wriggled off the hook with legerdemain and the loyalty of Hillary. Cain's wife has yet to speak. But maybe she won't have to. Cain is not running in a general election. He is running in a Republican primary. And it's not clear that conservative voters are particularly exercised about the accusations being hurled at him. It will be an interesting conundrum for the GOP: on the one hand, conservatives espouse family values and, on the other, they're exercised about what they see as a professional feminist lobby intent on demonizing men.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the charges are not getting much traction in the GOP:

Herman Cain continues to place ahead of most of his Republican rivals, with primary voters largely dismissing allegations of sexual harassment against the presidential hopeful, new polling shows. A new USA Today/Gallup survey shows Cain tied with Mitt Romney at 21% among a nationwide sample of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, an increase of 3% for Cain over the previous month's survey. It's also the sixth major public poll in a month showing Cain leading or statistically tied with Romney atop the GOP field.

For his part, Cain is hanging tough: "There is not an ounce of truth in these allegations," he said last night on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Bialek has her own set of issues; according to Bloomberg News, she's filed for bankruptcy twice. And she hired a celebrity lawyer, Gloria Allred, which won't boost her credibility. Whether she's telling the truth or not will likely be impossible to establish. Still, her detailed account sounded pretty credible. Also on the plus side for her is that she's a registered Republican and works for the Easter Seal society. Her ending, with its "Mr. Cain, I implore you. Make this right," sounded scripted. But it was also direct and potent. She portrayed Cain as a new version of Slick Willy, a rogue who can charm his audiences and act like a thug in private.

At his press conference this afternoon, Cain is sure to come out with guns blazing. This could be his "Checkers" moment, his chance to show that he's being maligned and misunderstood. Bialek will probably not be enough to stop the former pizza magnate from Godfather's. The accusations may only strengthen his determination to become the new godfather of the GOP.