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First Thoughts: Cain's evolving statements

Cain’s evolving statements… Monday began with him claiming no sexual harassment, and that he wasn’t aware of any settlement… But it ended with an admission that one woman might have incorrectly interpreted something he said as being inappropriate, and a settlement/agreement was reached… The big question: Does another shoe drop?... Here come the Super PAC ads: Pro-Perry group begins airing ads in IA and SC… Obama releases his physical; will the GOP candidates their medical information?... And Obama’s busy day with local TV stations.

*** Cain’s evolving statements: Make no mistake: Herman Cain and his campaign had a rough day handling the allegations that he had behaved inappropriately toward two female employees when he headed the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. NBC News has confirmed that two women accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct, and at least one woman received a financial settlement. First, Cain top aide Mark Block said on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” that Cain “never sexually harassed anybody. Period. End of story.” And he added, “I am not personally aware of any settlement.” In a later interview on FOX, Cain said, "If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it, and I hope it wasn't for much.” But then his story began to change. “Yes, there was some sort of settlement or termination,” he told FOX’s Greta Van Susteren. “I was aware that an agreement was reached,” he said on PBS. “The word settlement versus the word agreement. You know, I’m not sure what they called it.”


Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain at the National Press Club in Washington DC, Monday, October 31, 2011.

*** Will another shoe drop? So Cain’s Monday began there (no sexual harassment, not aware of a settlement) and ended up here (one woman might have incorrectly interpreted something he said as being inappropriate, and a settlement/agreement was reached). Can he survive this? It all depends if there’s another allegation or a new piece of information that contradicts his current story. If there is, that would be a knockout blow. Indeed, conservative commentators largely gave Cain a free pass yesterday. Rush Limbaugh said, “Look at how quickly what is known as the ‘mainstream media’ goes for the ugliest racial stereotypes they can to attack a black conservative.” And Laura Ingraham, who clerked for Clarence Thomas, said, “Doesn’t all this sound familiar? A black man who thinks for himself, who ends up surprising everyone…” (One exception, however, was Karl Rove, demonstrating an establishment-vs.-base divide here.) But if another shoe drops, he most likely won’t get another free pass from them.

*** Here come the Super PAC ads: Super PACs might say that they’re not coordinating with the campaigns they’re supporting, but just check out what happened yesterday. First, Rick Perry goes up with his second TV ad in Iowa. And then one of the Super PACs supporting him -- Make Us Great Again -- announced it’s airing TV ads in the Hawkeye State and also in South Carolina. The two ads (here and here) are similar, and they dovetail with the Perry campaign’s own positive ads in Iowa. *** CLARIFICATION *** First Read is no way implying Make Us Great Again is coordinating with the Perry campaign; we were just noting the coincidence of the timing and the states involved.

*** Where are the GOP candidates’ medical information? President Obama releasing his medical physical yesterday (which claimed that he is in good health and that he is tobacco free) is a reminder that we’ve received no medical information about any of the GOP presidential candidates. And two of them -- Cain (a cancer survivor) and Perry (back problems) -- have had major medical issues in the past.

*** Obama’s day with local TV anchors: Beginning at 11:00 am ET, Obama conducts interviews with a whopping NINE local TV stations, as well as with Heart Television. The nine are: WAVY, Portsmouth, VA; WTVT, Tampa, FL; KTRK, Houston, TX; KETV, Omaha, NE; WCCO, Minneapolis, MN; WPVI, Philadelphia, PA; KUSA, Denver, CO; KSAZ, Phoenix, AZ; and KGW, Portland, OR. These interviews are embargoed until 5:00 pm ET. By the way, the local TV anchors also will be able to interview Education Secretary Arne Duncan, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the administration’s jobs legislation. This media blitz raises the question: Where were these media/message events during other legislative pushes? It’s a HUGE advantage, and the White House hasn’t used it much.

*** On the 2012 trail: Most of the campaign activity is in Iowa… In Pella beginning at 10:00 am ET, Bachmann, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, and Santorum speak at a presidential forum sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers… Later in the day, Paul, Perry, and Santorum make several stops throughout the Hawkeye State… Outside of Iowa, Huntsman delivers an energy-policy speech in Durham, NH.

*** Tuesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) on the latest Super Committee developments… Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles on what they plan to tell the Super Committee later today… Latest from the 2012 trail with NBC News Campaign Embeds Carrie Dann and Andrew Rafferty… Plus more on the developing Cain story with the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, and Bloomberg News’ Jeanne Cummings.

*** Tuesday’s Jansing & Company line-up: Chris Jansing will interview three of Huntsman’s daughters, and they’ll talk about life on the campaign trail, family pressures, and how their dad is holding up. 

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Karen Tumulty, National Journal’s Charlie Cook, Dem strategist Steve McMahon and GOP strategist Vin Weber, and Wes Moore.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 7 days
Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 63 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 81 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 91 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 95 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 126 days

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