By CALVIN SHERWOOD
It is better to hold your peace and look a fool rather than open your mouth and prove it to be so. After last week’s escapades, it looks like GOP hopeful, Herman Cain, is learning this lesson, albeit painfully.
Accusations and rumors about sexual harassment took away some of the momentum Cain had accumulated from his 9-9-9 plan, but he wagered that if he held silent on the “idle gossip,” as his campaign strategists call it, the storm would blow over.
When one of those pesky journalists dared to force an opinion out of him he angrily said, “Don’t even go there!”
Naturally, the journalist went there.
Clearly, Cain does not always grasp what excites the American public. Sex scandals are far more entertaining than tax reform. There is no surprise that the American public is easily distracted by shiny things that seem interesting and can veer away from their original point of attention.
This should not surprise Cain too much, since it was this fascination with colorful personalities and sound bytes that drew so much attention to him in the first place. As a pizza mogul, Cain certainly added a new spice to the mix.
Although the aggressive antics scored Cain some extra publicity, he is now seeing the other side of that coin. Though it was minor, this angry outburst may be some ground for these accusations and prove his temper. If it were mere gossip, as Cain and his aides claim, why would he react in such a way?
In any case, the harassment scandal also managed to get Cain to lose his temper. This action will now force voters to ask themselves an inconvenient question, “If elected president, would Cain do this all the time? If journalists bug him, what’s going to happen when Iran pushes his buttons?”
Earlier in the race, Texas Governor Rick Perry experienced a similar roller coaster ride with media attention. In 2008, choosing Sarah Palin did the same thing to Sen. John McCain’s campaign for presidency.
A pattern is starting to emerge. Extremely colorful, candid and aggressive candidates garner the media attention they crave, but eventually slip up somewhere and see their approval ratings dip. Perry can sympathize since his support declined after floundering in several GOP debates against more seasoned veterans, like former Governor Mitt Romney.
If we can rely on history, even though the exquisitely groomed Romney is much less interesting than the fire-breathing Cain or Rick Perry of the GOP race, he will probably still outlast them. Why?
He is content to be the super slick, easygoing and bland politician for the time being. It is up to his opponents, like Cain, to do something else to distinguish themselves, and, in their efforts to garner support with catchy sound bytes, they sometimes slip up. Romney can afford to hold back a bit and wait until that happens.
The more mistakes his opponents make, the more viable Romney appears.
The GOP candidate race remains open on paper, but the campaigners with less experience are starting to lose their breath after too many sprints. This race, after all, is a marathon that is far from over.