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The Brief: Dec. 5, 2011

Herman Cain's exit has left an opening for Rick Perry, but the governor may have already lost his chance.

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The Big Conversation:

Herman Cain's exit has left an opening for Rick Perry, but the governor may have already lost his chance.

Perry, hoping to recapture some of the conservative support he once claimed, made a play over the weekend for supporters of Cain, who suspended his campaign on Saturday amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

"Herman Cain’s appeal was that of a Washington Outsider — someone not beholden to the entrenched Beltway interests, and who hasn’t spent his life cutting deals at the expense of conservative principles," Perry writes in a letter posted on his campaign website. "As the race goes forward, with the Iowa Caucuses 32 days away, I am truly the only Washington Outsider left in the race. I haven’t served a day in Washington — either in Congress or as part of an Administration — and I am not the hand-picked choice of the Washington Establishment. I am simply a conservative governor who has led based on my strong faith and conservative values, and will chart a conservative course for our country."

But Perry faces major hurdles in reclaiming Republican support from Cain. Polls have shown no signs of movement toward the governor, even as accusations against Cain began to mount. New surveys out this weekend from the Des Moines Register and NBC and Marist College showed Perry still mired in the single digits in Iowa, with resurgent Newt Gingrich on top.

And today, in a new Poll Position survey billing itself as the first national poll of GOP voters since Cain left the race, Perry sits at just 3 percent (with Gingrich leading his closest opponent, Mitt Romney, by 14 points, 37-23).

The new polling confirms speculation that Gingrich stands to benefit the most from Cain's departure. Gingrich may also soon benefit from Cain's direct support: An Atlanta TV station reported Sunday night that Cain will endorse the former House speaker today (though a Gingrich aid refused to comment).

Perry, who has made a play for Iowa voters with a major advertising push, must also contend with Gingrich's first Iowa ad, a minute-long spot that Time's Mark Halperin calls "upbeat, Reaganesque, optimistic and unifying."

“It’s too late for Perry,” Fergus Cullen, the former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, told the Houston Chronicle. “He’s just not seen as a credible option for voters looking for a new home. Even those who want to like Perry based on his positions or his Texas record can’t do it because he’s been such an incompetent candidate.”

Culled:

  • News that Donald Trump will moderate a Newsmax-sponsored Republican presidential debate on Dec. 27 set off a small spat over the weekend between the TV personality and Ron Paul, who has said he won't participate in the debate. "The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office's history and dignity," Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton said in a statement, according to USA Today. Trump, who has publicly cast doubt on Paul's chances of winning the presidency, shot back in a statement: "As I said in the past and will reiterate again, Ron Paul has a zero chance of winning either the nomination or the Presidency. ... Few people take Ron Paul seriously and many of his views and presentation make him a clown-like candidate."
  • The Tribune's Elizabeth Titus, reporting from Washington, has a look at the 10 or so congressional Republicans who have yet to endorse in the presidential race. What's the holdup? “I don’t want to take the fun out of watching the race by picking somebody right now,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, who is leaning toward endorsing Perry but said, “You worry he’s not going to be able to pull it off." Others speculate the undecided Republicans may be waiting to strike a deal in exchange for their endorsements. Politico also has a look at endorsements in the Republican Governors Association, whose members risk alienating Perry, a colleague, if they settle on a different candidate.
  • In response to information requests from the Austin American-Statesman, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's U.S. Senate campaign will soon release details of his schedule as acting governor, whose roles he has often assumed with Rick Perry on the presidential campaign trail. The campaign refused the Statesman's original request for the records but then backtracked, saying it would release the details this week "because we want the public to know how hard he's been working."

"I don’t quite understand the marching to his office; I didn't know he had the ability to lay on hands and anoint people."Ron Paul to CNN on Donald Trump

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