A day after being accused of carrying on a thirteen-year affair with an Atlanta woman, Herman Cain told campaign staff on a conference call this morning that he needs to assess whether the latest allegations are "going to create too much of a cloud in some people’s minds as to whether or not they should support us going forward." While Cain has already "reassessed" his campaign at various points since joining the race in May, this means that he's at least thinking about giving his increasingly moribund campaign the [SPOILER] Old Yeller treatment. While this would be a sad development for those of us who have so enjoyed chronicling Cain's bizarre candidacy, it would probably come as a relief to Cain's wife and family, who have been forced to endure a seemingly endless drip of embarrassing revelations for nearly a month now.
Bafflingly, despite the ongoing sex scandals — not to mention Cain's complete lack of familiarity with every foreign-policy issue — Cain still draws support in the mid-teens, according to recent polls, good for third place. And if Cain drops out, those supporters will migrate to other candidates, with a potentially huge impact on the race. The biggest beneficiary? The current front-runner, Newt Gingrich. PPP has found that as Cain's numbers have declined from their peak, his erstwhile backers have fueled Gingrich's concurrent rise. As PPP reported three weeks ago:
[Gingrich] is the second choice of Cain's supporters in all three of the places we polled over the weekend. In Ohio he's the second choice of 38% of Cain voters to 19% for Romney and 12% for Perry. In Mississippi he's the second choice of 28% of Cain voters to 19% for Perry and 17% for Romney. And in Iowa SD-18 he's the second choice of 24% of Cain voters to 22% for Bachmann and 16% for Perry.
If we were Mitt Romney, we'd be on the phone with Herman Cain right now, encouraging him to hang in there, at least for another couple of months. "Don't let the media bully you into leaving this race!" we'd tell him. "You're Herman Cain, for Christ's sake! You ran a pizza chain once! This country needs you!" Then, turning away from the phone and lowering our voice to a barely audible whisper, we'd add, "I need you."
Update: Right on cue, PPP is out with some new numbers that further confirm Gingrich's big advantage among Cain supporters:
Our last national survey found that Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters was 73/21. Meanwhile Romney's was 33/55 .... On average in 7 polls we've done this month Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters is 69/22. Romney's average is 31/57. In other words Gingrich's net favorability is 73 points better with Cain supporters than Romney's....
On average across six polls we've asked a second choice question on this month 37% of Cain voters pick Gingrich to only 13% for Romney. In fact Romney isn't any more likely to be the second choice of Cain supporters than Michele Bachmann (14%) or Rick Perry (12%).