Week In Politics: Updates On Cain, Perry, Romney

Renee Montagne and NPR's Cokie Roberts look at the political landscape this week.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Joining us with some analysis of all this, along with other political news, is NPR's Cokie Roberts.

Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And, Cokie, what do you make of this - these allegations against Herman Cain; while he headed now, you know, a lobbying organization over 10 years ago, long before he ran for office?

: Well, but he is right now – they come out as he is at the top of a poll in Iowa among caucus goers, showing him as the front runner. And this is what happens when the national spotlight is turned on, is that everything from your past comes up, because you're running for president. It's a serious office. And, you know, obviously in this particular case there are echoes of the Clarence Thomas - Anita Hill charges and that will have political implications, I would think, in both directions, both for him and against him.

But frankly, Renee, Herman Cain was already headed to a very difficult patch, because this is the moment when people start to pay a great deal of attention to him and it's very hard for someone who's never held public office to survive that kind of scrutiny.

And, you know, it starts out seeming very refreshing to have someone who's never ran for office before and says all kinds of interesting things. But in the end, voters tend to think that it's pretty scary and that they, you know, they prefer to go with somebody who's been tested.

Well, another candidate who's actually been in office for quite a long time, Texas Governor Rick Perry, is just – has also seen himself in a bad patch. He's trying hard now to become, again, the Republican candidate who could serve as the challenger to Mitt Romney. He's put forth his own flat tax plan. How far is that likely to go?

Well, the question is whether people take it seriously or not. But Perry is the candidate that a lot of Republicans are now focusing on, hoping that he can revive his campaign, because the Republicans are just not settled on Mitt Romney. Yesterday, Perry, for the first time, went on a Sunday talk show. He addressed the question that he's a bad debater saying that, you know, well, right now we have a good debater in the White House, and according to him, that's not working for the country.

And he has a new TV ad up saying he's a doer not a talker. But it's not clear that Perry can revive his campaign after his bad debate performances. Now he says he's going to participate in all five, count them, five, debates that will happen this November, and we'll see how he does. But Republicans are really having a hard time deciding to go with Romney or not. Right now there are lots of arrows headed at Mitt Romney.

And those arrows, of course coming from his fellow Republicans who have portrayed Romney as a flip-flopper, ready to shape his opinions and positions to fit the political climate.

And Democrats are picking up that charge. Yesterday, on one of the Sunday shows, that David Plouffe - one of President Obama's advisors - said that there was no core to Mitt Romney. I think that inside the Republican primary electorate those switches on policies are not so important.

But on the question of who is this guy? Can you trust him? I think that those can be very important, because the Republicans aren't sold on him to begin with. But, I think more important, Renee, for the general election, is the fact that each of Romney's flops is going in a more conservative direction, which could mean big trouble for him.

And you think it can – I mean they're thinking they could win on the economy, but this could really hurt them.

Yes, because you've got the independent voters, particularly in big states like Florida, who don't want to hear candidates question whether Obama was born in this country or question global warming or take a hard line on abortion. So I think that you've got a big problem that the Republicans are setting up for themselves in these primaries, particularly their harsh rhetoric on immigration which can drive away Hispanic voters, really, for years to come.

NPR's Cokie Roberts, thanks very much. And you are listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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