From sexual harassment to groping to the economy.
Will tonight be the night we return to the regularly scheduled programming of the Republican primary season?
If there’s anything that’s going to help steer the narrative of the nominating contest away from a scandal and back to the issues that most Americans care about, its tonight’s debate in Michigan, which will feature a discussion of taxes, government spending and entitlement reform, among other things.
The CNBC debate, which is set to begin at 8 p.m. ET, will feature eight of the leading presidential candidates, including the embattled Herman Cain, whose interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl and his press conference in Arizona yesterday did little to quiet the fury surrounding him.
Cain tried to change the subject, telling Karl that, “I can categorically say I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period. And as far as these latest charges… I reject all of those.”
But his contention that he “didn’t even recognize” Sharon Bialek, a woman who this week went public to accuse him of sexual misconduct, has now backed him into a corner. Complicating matters further, the lawyer for another of Cain’s accusers, Karen Kraushaar, said in a statement last night that his client “has decided to hold a joint news conference with as many of the women who complained of sexual harassment by Herman Cain as will participate.”
It’s a national political drama that has very real consequences for Cain’s prospects with voters. As The New York Times reported today, “In Iowa, campaign volunteers furiously dialed supporters, using a script that aimed to play down the controversy. ‘How are you doing this evening? I’m calling this evening to confirm your continued support for our next Republican nominee, Herman Cain,’ the script said. ‘Are you still a Herman Cain supporter? Will you be attending the caucuses?’” http://nyti.ms/vwETbR
Cain’s campaign is going on the air with its first television ad in the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state today, but it’s hard to see how the past week’s controversy does not begin to erode his support there and elsewhere across the country.
At his news conference in Arizona yesterday, Cain said that he would continue to answer the women’s’ allegations, but at this rate, it’s starting to seem like Cain’s going to have to hold a news conference every day — that does not a presidential nominee make.
Herman Cain responds as another accuser surfaces: ABC’s Brian Ross speaks with a woman who says as a boss, Herman Cain was a “monster.” http://abcn.ws/vkFnUs
WHY DEBATES MATTER: Meanwhile, keep your eye on ABCNews.com for coverage of tonight’s presidential debate — the 10th of the Republican primary season. Bloomberg’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis weighs in on why they matter: “They’ve helped squelch Rick Perry’s poll surge and fuel Herman Cain’s rise. They’ve given Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum platforms for their financially strapped candidacies. They’ve boosted Mitt Romney’s efforts to cast himself as the most electable Republican. … ‘The debates have made and broken candidacies this year,’ said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communication professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. Among the top beneficiaries have been candidates such as Gingrich and Santorum, who have capitalized on the free airtime to boost their campaigns.” http://bloom.bg/s2e3Dk
ABC NEWS/YAHOO! NEWS MARATHON DAY WITH THE GOP CANDIDATES. ABC News along with our partner Yahoo! News conducted interviews with eight presidential candidates in a single day and, as ABC News’ Political Director Amy Walter notes, “All but Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich refused to take a position on the Cain situation. Romney called the charges a ‘serious matter’ that should ‘be taken seriously.’ Gingrich said, ‘clearly Herman Cain has to answer the charges…he owes her [Sharon Bialek] that, and the American people that as well.’ … Despite the sharp elbows many of these GOPers have thrown at one another during the debates and in web videos, they saved their strongest criticism for President Obama. Mitt Romney said: ‘I’m in this race, because of the failure of President Obama to turn around this economy;’ Perry charged: ‘His policies have failed. They have failed miserably. His foreign policy has failed miserably.’; Bachmann: ‘his policies certainly haven’t helped anyone.’ Not surprisingly, the policies attacked most were ‘Obamacare’ — the Affordable Care Act health reform law passed by Democrats and ‘Dodd-Frank’ Wall Street reform bill.” http://abcn.ws/tqvKbw
Full coverage and videos of all eight presidential candidate interviews: http://abcn.ws/rMqiWi
The Lightening Round : the candidates talk about their worst job, favorite junk food, TV guilty pleasure and more: http://abcn.ws/sQd5IY
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: SEN. SHERROD BROWN. ABC’s Amy Walter and Zach Wolf interview Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America about the results of last nights elections, which saw the defeat of a so-called “personhood” amendment in Mississippi. Also on the program, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc
ELECTION 2011: WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT? Courtesy of the National Journal’s Sean Sullivan, Julie Sobel and Dan Roem: “Control of the Virginia state Senate comes down to 86 votes in a single district: Republican challenger Bryce Reeves exited election day with a 0.17 percent lead over Democratic state Sen. Edd Houck with all 69 precincts of the district centered in Spotsylvania County reporting, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections. If Reeves is declared the winner, then Republicans will have picked up two state Senate seats and forced a 20-20 tie in party control. … Ohio voters have repealed Senate Bill 5, a controversial measure signed by freshman Republican Gov.John Kasich earlier this year that curbs collective bargaining for public employees. With 19 percent of the precincts reporting, the Associated Press has declared Issue 2 — the ballot referendum to decide the future of SB 5 — rejected with 63 percent voting no and just 37 percent voting yes. … Surprise in Mississippi: Initiative 26, which would have amended the state constitution to expand the definition of the word “person” to the moment of fertilization, has been defeated by a substantial margin. With 51 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press has projected that the “No” votes have it, leading the “Yes” votes 59 percent to 41 percent. … Democrats [had a] good night in Kentucky: On top of Gov. Steve Beshear’s easy re-election win, Democrats are cleaning up in most of the down-ballot races.” http://bit.ly/sMBjwV
…AND WHY IT MATTERS. From ABC’s Amy Walter: Organized labor in Ohio is taking a victory lap for its work in defeating a ballot initiative that would have limited collective bargaining rights for union workers. The “personhood” initiative goes down to defeat in Mississippi, even as the GOP candidate for governor who campaigned for it easily won his election. Maine voters reject a new voter ID law. And Republican hopes of winning control of the state Senate in Virginia have come down to 86 votes. What does this all mean? First, that voters don’t seem particularly interested in ideological battles that have little impact on their core concerns about fixing the economy and creating jobs. Democrats will also argue that talk of anemic support from their base, especially in the key battleground state of Ohio, has been overstated. Second, the narrowness of the state Senate victories in Virginia portend equally narrow margins in the highly competitive presidential and U.S. Senate contests in this state next fall. The partisan waves that washed over Virginia in 2008 and 2010 seem to be receding. http://abcn.ws/rVewCA
OBAMA RE-ELECT EFFORT PRAISES GROUND GAME. Obama for America national field director Jeremy Bird says Democratic victories in key 2012 battlegrounds Tuesday are thanks in part to a successful test-run of a massive organizing machine mounted ahead of 2012. ”Over the course of the coming year, our goal is to build a campaign infrastructure led by more than 20,000 trained and tested volunteer neighborhood teams. Our Year Out events have mobilized these groups in key states while at the same time supporting important local and statewide elections,” Bird wrote in a memo distributed this morning. “In Ohio, our success last night was a shared effort between a number of groups opposed to taking away the rights of workers. For our part, neighborhood teams continued what has been a GOTV marathon for the past several months. …Volunteers ran GOTV staging locations and had conversations with tens of thousands of supporters, educating them on when, where and how to vote.”
EXCLUSIVE: CANDIDATE SPOUSES FORM 2012 WIVES ‘CLUB.’ “As the race for the Republican nomination heats up, the hostility of the campaign can often take center stage as the candidates are pitted against one another and engage in launching attacks against their opponents, but amid the animosity and combativeness among the candidates, a “wives club” of sorts has formed between Callista Gingrich, Mary Kaye Huntsman and Anita Perry, who have cultivated a rare friendship between political spouses that puts aside politics and focuses on supporting each other as their paths cross on the campaign trail,” ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports. “‘Well, the candidates are in competition with each other. We’re not in competition. None of the spouses are in competition,’ Mrs. Perry told ABC News. Anita Perry and Mary Kaye Huntsman first met when their husbands served as the governors of Texas and Utah, but the two women reconnected last spring when the Huntsman family returned to the United States after Jon Huntsman served as ambassador to China for two years. The Huntsman couple dined with Anita and Rick Perry in Austin, Texas prior to both of the candidates’ entrance into the race, and by the end of the meal, Mary Kaye and Anita had exchanged e-mail addresses with each other. ‘She’s somebody that whether our husbands had served together or not, if I had met her on the streets, we’d be friends,’ Mrs. Huntsman told ABC News. ‘We’re mothers and wives with husbands who are running for the presidency of the United States, but we were friends before, so we just carry on that friendship,’ Mrs. Perry said. While they see each other at debates and other major political events, the duo keeps in contact with each other via e-mail, sending each other quick missives several times a week.” http://abcn.ws/sar3FR
A VERY ODD REQUEST FROM HERMAN CAIN. “In an exclusive broadcast interview with ABC News, Donna Donella recalled what she alleges happened the day her path crossed with Cain, when the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza delivered an address at a seminar in Cairo, Egypt in late 2001. Donella had helped organize the speech on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development,” ABC’s John R. Parkinson writes. “‘He came to Egypt, he gave his seminar, and then after he was done speaking, there was a Q and A portion and a woman in the audience asked a question,’ Donella said. ‘Shortly after he left the stage, he approached a colleague and myself and said something to the effect of, ‘Could you please put me in touch with the lovely young woman in the audience who asked me the question so I can give her a more detailed answer over dinner?’ Donella, who lives in Arlington, Va. and currently works as a management consultant, said she declined to set Cain up and thought it was ‘a very odd request and we were a little suspicious of his tone.’” http://abcn.ws/vn6HJs
ROMNEY PAINTS OBAMA AS THE ‘STATUS QUO’ CANDIDATE. “In a new web video first obtained by ABC News and set to be released Wednesday, the Mitt Romney campaign gives voters an ominous reminder that with less than a year to go until Election Day, the choice of who ends up in the White House next year is in their hands,” reports ABC’s Emily Friedman. “As the camera zooms in among what appears to be an abandoned campaign headquarters, focusing in on a television replaying moments from President Barack Obama’s election night victory in 2008, a stern voice says, ‘On November 7th, 2012, Americans will wake up and a decision will have been made.’ ‘Will we re-elect a president who will continue with the status quo?’ says the voice, as the camera focuses on the television placed in front of tattered American flag, with tables filled with discarded papers and notebooks off to the side. ‘Will you help turn our country around?’ the voiceover continues. ‘And believe in America again? What will you do?’ And finally, the ad ends with a reminder: ‘You have less than a year — the future is in your hands.’” http://abcn.ws/vnvKj7
OBAMA AHEAD AMONG LATINOS. “President Obama holds leads over the top three Republican presidential candidates in a new national poll conducted by Latino Decisions for Univision, with the president enjoying far wider advantages among Latino voters, an area of strength that could ultimately prove crucial come next year’s election,” notes ABC’s Matthew Jaffe. “One year before Election Day 2012, the president leads GOP front-runners Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry with advantages that are outside the poll’s 3.1 percent margin for error, according to the poll results released today. Among registered voters nationwide, Obama holds the largest lead over Perry at 10 percent, with his edge over Romney at 9 percent. Cain, meanwhile, is within 6 percent of the president. Among registered Latino voters in the 21 most Latino-heavy states, Obama’s advantage is far greater, exceeding two-to-one margins in every case.” http://abcn.ws/u2MHOc
WOMEN VOTERS KEY TO THE PRESIDENT’S RE-ELECTION HOPES. “With persistent economic woes gripping much of the electorate, President Obama today pivots his re-election pitch towards women voters, who backed his candidacy enthusiastically in 2008 and may prove more influential in 2012,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports. “In an address before the National Women’s Law Center, Obama will celebrate the role of women in the civil rights movement and the steps he’s taken to keep their spirit alive, organizers say. But despite advancements in gender equality under Obama — including the appointment of two women to the Supreme Court and enactment of a health care overhaul that provides insurance parity and free preventive care services for women — polls show he and Democrats face a difficult path towards rekindling active political support in the months ahead. ‘I think there will be currency for Obama when women learn about what he’s achieved, but I do believe that many women have no idea about the concrete accomplishments that have been secured over the last few years,’ said National Women’s Law Center co-president Marcia Greeberger.” http://abcn.ws/t9IAI0
NORQUIST LOSING HIS GRIP ON THE HOUSE. “Grover Norquist’s grip on the House Republican Conference is loosening,” reports The Hill’s Russell Berman and Bernie Becker. “A growing number of GOP lawmakers have disavowed Norquist’s pledge against supporting tax increases in recent days, telling The Hill they no longer feel bound to uphold a document that they signed, in some cases, more than a decade ago. Norquist’s advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform, lists 238 House signers of its Taxpayer Protection Pledge, but several House Republicans, and at least one Democrat, now say the anti-tax group is being deceptive and want their names taken off the list. In its publicly displayed list of signers ‘in the 112th Congress,’ Norquist’s group includes several members who say they have specifically refused to sign the pledge during their most recent campaigns. The sheet of paper they signed years ago, the lawmakers say, is no longer valid.” http://bit.ly/tgRues
WHITE HOUSE WATCH: TARGETING WASTE. From ABC’s Mary Bruce: “President Obama’s campaign to show he’s taking action on the economy today will target government waste and promote ways to efficiently spend federal dollars by cutting funding for federal swag and excessive document printing, among other things. This morning, the president will sign an executive order directing agencies to reduce spending on travel; limit the number of technology devices that can be issued to employees; stop unnecessarily printing of documents; shrink the executive fleet of the federal government; and stop using taxpayer dollars to buy plaques, clothing, and other unnecessary promotional items. According to the White House, the executive order will reduce overall spending in these areas by 20 percent.” http://abcn.ws/sBtQln
@kenrudin: Hal Bruno, the ex-political director for ABC News who brought me down to DC as his deputy in 1986, died last night at 83. On election day.
@HotlineJosh: Last night’s elections MAY be a sign that Obama better-off pursuing a blue-collar strategy (OH/PA/MI), even tho its not natural base for him
* Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and John Huntsman are in Michigan today preparing for Wednesday night’s CNBC Debate. The debate is hosted by the Michigan GOP and will focus on the economy. It will take place at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan and can be seen on CNBC starting at 8:00pm ET.
* Chris Christie hits the campaign trail for the first time on behalf of his endorsement for President, Mitt Romney. Christie will host two events in New Hampshire including one at Romney’s state headquarters.
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