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First Thoughts: Drip, drip, drip

Drip, drip, drip: Lawyer for one of Cain’s female accusers asks National Restaurant Association to release her from confidentiality agreement… New York Times reports the other female accuser received a $35,000 severance payment (her annual salary)… Cain declares that race has played a role in this story… Another busy DC day for Cain: He already addressed the Consumer Electronics Association in McLean, VA… At 10:40 am ET in Alexandria, VA, he speaks at a doctor’s group opposed to the federal health-care law… And he visits Capitol Hill at 2:30 pm… Don’t forget the other Cain story out there… Where would Pawlenty be if he were still in the race?... Quinnipiac poll: Cain still leads and Obama approval ticks up… Priorities USA Action hits Romney… And AZ Republicans oust independent redistricting chair.

*** Drip, drip, drip: The story that has been bedeviling Herman Cain over the past couple of days isn’t going away, at least not anytime soon. First, the lawyer representing one of the women who accused Cain of inappropriate sexual behavior is asking the National Restaurant Association to release her from her confidentiality agreement so she can tell her side of the story. “She would like to speak out for the record, only because Mr. Cain has stated that he didn’t sexually harass anyone, there wasn’t any substance to the allegations, and basically made it look like she was some type of frivolous claimant just looking for money,” lawyer Joel Bennett told NBC News. He added, “There was more than one incident that my client perceived as sexual harassment.” So far, this has been a he-said story. But if one of the women goes public, it becomes he-said/she-said -- and perhaps something he can’t overcome, especially if there are new facts introduced.

*** Two immediate questions for Cain: Second, the New York Times reported last night that the other female accuser received a $35,000 severance payment -- her annual salary -- from the National Restaurant Association. “One former colleague familiar with the details said such a severance was not common, especially for an employee with the woman’s relatively short tenure and her pay grade.” So these revelations raise two questions for Cain. One, will he urge the National Restaurant Association to release Female A from her confidentiality agreement, especially after mentioning in an interview that her work had been subpar? And two, if the complaint by Female B has no merit, why did she reportedly receive a year’s severance payment? Cain was asked the first question in an interview on FOX last night, but didn’t truly answer it. “I can't answer that now … because there are legal implications if the Restaurant Association waves that… I can't give you a definitive answer on that until we consult with our legal attorneys.” The National Restaurant Association also says it hasn’t yet been officially contacted by Bennett, Female A’s attorney.

AP

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

*** The Amazing Race: At his National Press Club appearance on Monday, Cain was asked this question: How much of a role does race play in President Obama’s current political problems? He responded, “I don't think people being uncomfortable with this president has anything whatsoever to do with his race. It's bad policy that people have problem with this president.” But when Cain was asked on FOX last night if race was playing a role with HIS OWN political problem right now (re: the sexual-harassment allegations), he answered in the affirmative. “I believe the answer is yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it.” Moreover, a pro-Cain Super PAC released a fundraising solicitation entitled: “Don't let the media ‘lynch’ another black conservative.” It went on to say, “The left is trying to destroy Herman Cain -- just like they did to Clarence Thomas. They are engaging in a ‘high tech’ lynching by smearing his reputation and attacking his character.” Here’s something to chew on: At this same point in the 2008 cycle, Obama had invoked his race far less than Cain currently has. 

*** Another busy day in DC for Cain: There will be plenty of opportunities for Cain to answer these two questions today, with numerous DC-based reporters following him around. Already this morning, Cain addressed the Consumer Electronics Association in McLean, VA. At 10:40 am ET in Alexandria, VA, he speaks to a doctor’s group opposed to the federal health-care law. And at 2:30 pm, he meets with members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

*** Don’t forget the other Cain story out there: While the political world is focused on these sexual-harassment allegations, there’s another Cain story that could prove to be as problematic for his campaign. We mentioned the story on Monday, but it bears repeating again. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Herman Cain's two top campaign aides [Mark Block and Linda Hansen] ran a private Wisconsin-based corporation that helped the GOP presidential candidate get his fledgling campaign off the ground by originally footing the bill for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for such items as iPads, chartered flights and travel to Iowa and Las Vegas - something that might breach federal tax and campaign law, according to sources and documents. Internal financial records … show that Prosperity USA said it was owed about $40,000 by the Cain campaign for a variety of items in February and March. Cain began taking donations for his presidential bid on Jan. 1.”

*** Where would Pawlenty be if he were still in the race? Yesterday, Jonah Goldberg (and others) asked this question: What if Pawlenty were still in the race? It’s a question worth pondering in the wake of the allegations against Cain and Perry’s and Bachmann’s decline in the polls. Goldberg wrote, “His problem stemmed from the fact that he's a vanilla guy who thought he needed to convince conservatives he was a more exciting flavor. He should have waited, because vanilla may not be anyone's first choice, but it's almost everyone's second choice.” Ironically, Pawlenty’s own initial analysis of the 2012 GOP Primary back in 2010 was that this would be two primaries: one to BECOME the anti-Romney, and then one with Romney. As Pawlenty found out the hard way, it was perhaps too soon to drop out of the anti-Romney primary.

*** Q Poll: Cain still leads the GOP field, Obama approval ticks up: Meanwhile, a new national Quinnipiac poll (conducted Oct. 25-31, so mostly before the original Politico story on Cain came out) still shows the ex-Godfather’s Pizza CEO leading the GOP lead. Cain is at 30% among GOP primary voters, followed by Romney at 23%, Gingrich at 10%, and Perry at 8%. The poll also shows an increase in President Obama’s approval rating – from 41%-55% in early October to 47%-49% now. In hypothetical head-to-head match ups, Obama leads Romney by five points (47%-42%), Cain by 10 (50%-40%), and Perry by 16 (52%-36%).

*** Priorities USA Action hits Romney: While Cain and Perry (to a lesser extent) are grabbing the political world’s attention this week, Obama’s allies are trying to keep Mitt Romney in the news. The pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action hits Romney in a new internet/social media ad; in fact, it appears to be the first advertising to use that widely circulated Bain Capital photo of Romney. The ad’s charge: Romney’s vision for America -- “Medicare dismantled, Planned Parenthood defunded, global warming ignored, college aid slashed, health-insurance reform repealed.” Meanwhile, check out who Romney is targeting with a new Web ad -- not Cain, but Perry, the guy garnering 4th or 5th in most polls.

*** AZ GOPers oust independent redistricting chair: And don’t miss this story: “Arizona’s Senate on Tuesday night ousted the chairwoman of the citizens’ commission charged with redrawing political boundaries, igniting a fierce legal battle over whether the state’s Republican leaders were interfering in a redistricting process that voters sought to insulate from politics,” the New York Times writes. “Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, proposed the removal of Colleen C. Mathis, the chairwoman of the Independent Redistricting Commission, and the Republican-controlled State Senate voted 21 to 6 to carry it out.” Arizona has been the venue for plenty of highly charged political stories. This is just the latest example.

One of the women who accused Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain of sexual harassment wants to share her story. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

*** On the 2012 trail: Romney is raising money in New York City (where NBC’s Garrett Haake reports that 15-20 protestors have assembled outside)… Bachmann and Santorum campaign in Iowa… Huntsman stumps in South Carolina… And at 11:00 am ET, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner announces the date of the Granite State primary; it’s expected to take place on Jan. 10.

*** Wednesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) on 2012 and the economy… The Economist’s Greg Ip and National Journal’s Jim Tankersley on what Greece means for the U.S… Latest news from the trail with NBC News Campaign Embeds Alex Moe in Iowa, Jo Ling Kent in New Hampshire and Ali Weinberg in South Carolina… More on the Cain story and other 2012 headlines with Roll Call’s David Drucker, MSNBC Political Analyst Michelle Bernard, and former Obama White House Communications Director Anita Dunn.

*** Wednesday’s Jansing & Company line-up: Chris Jansing will interview Bloomberg’s Jeanne Cummings (on the new Quinnipiac poll), Super Committee member James Clyburn (D), and former Obama deficit-reduction co-chair Erskine Bowles (D).

*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Pawlenty, Super Committee member Xavier Becerra (D), MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (on his new book), Dem strategist Bill Burton, former RNC Chair Michael Steele, NBC’s Tom Brokaw, NBC’s Martin Fletcher, and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 6 days
Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 62 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 80 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 90 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 94 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 125 days

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