Analysis: What We Learned From ABC News / Yahoo! Interviews With GOP Candidates For President

ABC News and Yahoo! conducted interviews with all 8 major Republican presidential candidates today, a year ahead of election day 2012. From Herman Cain’s reaction to allegations of sexual harassment to where each of the Republicans agree, here are the top three lessons we drew from eight interviews in one day.

1)      Herman Cain isn’t backing down. In fact, he’s doubling down. Not only does he deny the charges leveled by Sharon Bialek, but he told ABC’s Jon Karl that he doesn’t even know her .  ”When I first saw her [Bialek]… I didn’t even recognize her,” Cain said. ”I am honestly telling you I can’t even recall knowing her back then.”

This he said/she said strategy works only if she’s the only woman willing to go public with these graphic allegations. Moreover, it’s getting harder for Cain to explain why four women – two of whom were compensated financially by the National Restaurant Association – are all lying about him and his actions.

2)      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.”

This isn’t the toughest criticism that could be leveled against a candidate who has been accused by four women that he sexually harassed them, but they were the toughest leveled at Cain thus far.

Romney is running as a general election candidate. The others, desperate to become the anti-Romney, are eager to pick up Cain voters if/when he collapses in the polls. Romney, meanwhile, needs to worry more about appealing to a broader spectrum of the electorate. Namely, to the swing voters – such as suburban women – who are going to be critical in November 2012. Ignoring charges of sexual harassment is not likely to play well among the general electorate.

Newt, meanwhile, is happiest when he plays the role of the professor and the analyst. And, any political analyst worth their salt would tell you that Cain should follow the advice Gingrich laid forward.

3)      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.