Is Herman Cain the new Teflon-man of American politics?
Despite bungling his responses to the revelation that he was twice accused of sexual harassment in the 1990s, and his failure to explain the rampant inconsistencies in his policy pronouncements, the new front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination continues to defy the laws of political gravity.
The first poll conducted since the unleashing of the media storm unleashed by Politico's Sunday scoop shows Mr. Cain gaining on his rivals among Republican voters in South Carolina, whose key Jan. 21 GOP primary is a critical hurdle for any candidate.
A Rasmussen survey conducted on Tuesday night – more than 48 hours after the Politico story broke – shows that Mr. Cain has the support of 33 per cent of Republican voters in the Palmetto State, ahead of Mitt Romney (23 per cent) and Rick Perry (far behind at 9 per cent).
What's more, almost six out of 10 GOP voters in South Carolina say they don't believe the allegations brought against Mr. Cain by two employees of the National Restaurant Association, which he ran at the time. Only 28 per cent think they are very or somewhat likely to be true.
Anecdotal evidence suggests Iowans are reacting with the same skepticism, if not disinterest, to the charges. Politico reported Wednesday that voters in the Hawkeye State, whose GOP caucuses will be held Jan. 3," have so far greeted the story with a shrug."
Meanwhile, another poll out Wednesday morning from the highly-reputable Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, but taken before the harassment story broke, puts Mr. Cain ahead of Mr. Romney among Republican voters nationally by 30 per cent to 23 per cent.
How long Cain this last?
Mr. Cain continues to amend his initial statement about the harassment allegations. After saying he had been "unaware" of any settlement being paid to the women, he has revised his explanation repeatedly in interviews since Monday.
Pundits are beginning to see a pattern. Indeed, Mr. Cain has contradicted himself continuously in recent weeks on everything from his stand on abortion to the details of his 9-9-9 tax plan.
Even some of the conservative bloggers who have been most enthusiastic about Mr. Cain's candidacy are now expressing doubts. The influential RedState.org blog ridiculed Mr. Cain for saying, in a Monday PBS interview, that China was "trying to develop nuclear capability." The Communist nation has had nuclear weapons for almost five decades.
What's remarkable is just how little damage his gaffe appears to have done. Had any other candidate betrayed such a serious gap in knowledge of foreign policy, he or she might already have been laughed out of the GOP race. Does that make Sarah Palin jealous?