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First Thoughts: The blame game

Cain campaign tries to turn story into a blame game… But the blame game only works in the short term: What ultimately matters is the story -- not who leaked it… The latest developments… Cain to Ginni Thomas: “That is the DC culture: Guilty until proven innocent”… Obama in Cannes for G20 meeting… The venue -- Cannes, France -- is a curious symbolic choice… And that Arizona redistricting story isn’t going away. 

*** The blame game: As the Washington Post notes, Herman Cain started out blaming his accusers and the news media for the story alleging inappropriate behavior with at least two female employees when he headed the National Restaurant Association. He then turned to Democrats and liberals, arguing that they don’t want to see him win the GOP presidential nomination. And now Cain and his campaign are blaming Team Perry for leaking the story, saying that he told Perry adviser Curt Anderson in 2003 about a charge stemming from his time at the restaurant association. (But if Cain told folks about this in ’03 to discuss opposition research on him in preparation for a Senate bid, why was he so unprepared to respond after the Politico story came out Sunday night?) "The Perry campaign needs to apologize to Herman Cain and his family," top Cain aide Mark Block said on FOX yesterday. Perry and his campaign deny leaking the story. “We found out about the allegations against Mr. Cain the same time everybody else did," Perry told Red State’s Erick Erickson, per NBC’s Carrie Dann.

*** What matters is that there was something to leak: But the blame game only works for a short period of time. What ultimately matters is the story -- not who leaked it. Indeed, here’s what NBC News has known since Monday: Two women accused Cain of inappropriate sexual conduct, and at least one woman received a financial settlement because of it. Over the course of three days, Cain has tried to deflect blame, but hasn't been able prove all the allegations as false. He's complaining that he's being treated as if he's "guilty until proven innocent” (see below). The problem for him is that while he's been deflecting blame, he's also evolved his explanation so much that it's confirmed some of the charges, making his denials on all of them harder to believe. 

AP

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaking at the Congressional Health Caucus Thought Leaders Series, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2011 in Washington, DC.

*** The latest developments: Here are the latest developments in the story: First, the AP reported yesterday that a THIRD former National Restaurant Association employee considered filing a workplace complaint against Cain. Second, Chris Wilson, a GOP pollster aligned with a pro-Perry Super PAC who worked for the National Restaurant Association, has alleged seeing Cain engage in inappropriate behavior (and also denies leaking the story). And third, as NBC’s Lisa Myers reported on “TODAY,” the lawyer for one female accuser who wanted to tell her side of the story, doesn’t want to come out publicly. “She has a life to live and a career, and she doesn’t want to become another Anita Hill,” said lawyer Joel Bennett. Instead, as the New York Times notes, Bennett wants to release a statement -- on his client’s behalf -- that makes clear her version of events is different than Cain’s, without violating her non-disclosure agreement.

*** Cain chats in interview with Ginni Thomas: Cain’s latest interview is with -- of all people -- Ginni Thomas (Clarence Thomas’ wife) for the Daily Caller. “That is the DC culture: Guilty until proven innocent,” Cain says, referring to the charges of sexual harassment. And asked to respond to his earlier comment suggesting that China doesn’t have nuclear capabilities yet, Cain answers, “Maybe I misspoke. What I meant was, China does not have the size of nuclear capability that we have. They do have a nuclear capability. I was talking about their total nuclear capability.”

A third woman has come forward describing aggressive and unwanted behavior by Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.

*** The Cannes Economic Festival: Besides Cain, the other big political story is President Obama’s day in Europe at the G20. The president has arrived in Cannes, France for what is already his fifth G20 summit since taking office. Each one has come at a crucial moment in the global economy, and this one is no different. The two-day summit will be dominated by the issue of Greece (even more so given the rumors the Greek PM is stepping down) and the greater economic stability of Europe. Obama is largely on the sidelines here, playing a behind-the-scenes role as cheerleader and therapist as the rich Euro countries (France and Germany) wrestle with how to bail out the less stable economies (Greece) and put a plan in place to make sure Italy, Spain, and a few other fragile euro nations don't drag the entire world economy down with them. Politically, Obama needs Europe to act, since if they don't, it will only serve to add to what is already an uncertain election year where the economy is Issue No. 1.

AP

President Obama with, from left, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister David Cameron at the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011.

*** A curious choice of venue: Symbolically, France picked a curious place for this gathering. Cannes is a resort town known for catering to excess -- and many of the economic problems these leaders are trying to solve have their roots in excess. For instance, the U.S. delegation is staying a stone's throw away from shops like Prada, Jimmy Choo, and other luxurious stores. It really couldn't be more of a contrast with the protests in Athens or Oakland.

*** Pro-choice Mitt (back in 2002): Per the Washington Post, here’s another example why conservatives have some doubts about Mitt Romney’s bona fides on social issues. “Mitt Romney was firm and direct with the abortion rights advocates sitting in his office nine years ago, assuring the group that if elected Massachusetts governor, he would protect the state’s abortion laws. Then, as the meeting drew to a close, the businessman offered an intriguing suggestion — that he would rise to national prominence in the Republican Party as a victor in a liberal state and could use his influence to soften the GOP’s hard-line opposition to abortion. He would be a ‘good voice in the party’ for their cause, and his moderation on the issue would be ‘widely written about,’ he said, according to detailed notes taken by an officer of the group, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.”

*** On the 2012 trail: Bachmann and Santorum continue to campaign in Iowa… Perry’s also in the Hawkeye State… Romney, in New Hampshire, discusses fiscal policy… And Huntsman remains in South Carolina.

*** Raising Arizona: The story about Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and state Republicans ousting the independent chair of the state’s redistricting commission isn’t going away. The Arizona Republic’s editorial board slams Brewer today: “Gov. Jan Brewer and Senate Republicans ran roughshod over the public on Tuesday… They trampled a process that voters approved in 2000 to take the job of redrawing the political map away from elected officials.” And: “In a crowning affront to the public, Gov. Brewer is out of town on a book signing tour this week and had Secretary of State Ken Bennett issue the call for a special session. She didn't bother to come back when taking a historic blow against a voter-approved institution.”

*** Thursday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: (with guest host Chris Cillizza): One of us (!!!) live from the G20 in France… Romney-backing Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Perry-backing Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) on why they made their picks and what they think the primaries will really be about… NBC News Campaign Embed Garrett Haake on Romney’s big New York money haul and plans to return to Iowa… NBC’s Mike Isikoff on where Wall Street money is going in 2012… The latest on Cain and more with former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and the Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson.

*** Thursday’s Jansing & Company line-up: Chris Jansing interviews the New York Times’ Charles Blow and the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne (on the Cain story), as well as Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (on the Super Committee’s work).

*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: The program interviews Dem Rep. Raul Grijalva, former Treasury official Jay Powell, and New York Magazine’s John Heilemann.

*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: The program interviews the Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut, Michael Smerconish, and the Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 5 days
Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 61 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 79 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 89 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 93 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 124 days

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