Video: Herman Cain Jokes About Anita Hill - Plus: Newt Pulls Into Second Place?

Posted: Nov 11, 2011 11:30 AM

Some conservatives like the estimable Laura Ingraham Newt Gingrich* aren't amused by this little exchange:

According to The Caucus blog, the Republican presidential hopeful was caught on tape Thursday making a wisecrack about Anita Hill, the law professor who lodged sexual harassment accusations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas 20 years ago.  Cain was making a campaign stop in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Thursday when a person in the crowd mentioned Hill. He laughed and said: "Is she going to endorse me?"

And this is, exactly?  As someone who hasn't shied away from criticizing Cain's policies and campaign, I can't muster much indignation over this.  Cain has been under intense pressure for weeks.  A supporter offers a word of encouragement by comparing his situation to the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill tete-a-tete in the 1980's (perhaps a somewhat inapt analogy, but not surprising or unusual), and Cain makes has a little fun with it.  Feel free to explain to me why this is brow-furrowingly troubling; I just don't see it.  What Cain may not be chuckling about is the latest McClatchy poll of GOP voters, which shows him slipping into third place nationally, behind Romney and Newt Gingrich:

The Republican presidential race is being shaken up again, with Mitt Romney retaking the lead, Newt Gingrich surging into second place, and Herman Cain dropping to third place, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll released Friday. The poll signaled that Romney retains his steady if uncommanding position and that, in the quest by most Republicans for an alternative, they've cooled on Cain and are starting to turn to Gingrich. It is the first national survey since the allegations of sexual harassment against Cain erupted into a full political firestorm this week.

— Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, 23 percent;

—Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, 19 percent;

—Cain, the former restaurant executive, 17 percent;

—Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, 10 percent;

—Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, 8 percent;

—Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, 5 percent;

—Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, 1 percent;

—Former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah, 1 percent;

Undecided, 17 percent.

Put another way, "undecided" is tied for third, which underscores the volatility of the race.  Yesterday Dan asked if Newt is the real deal.  It seems quite a few Republican primary voters are coming to the conclusion that he is.  As an aside, I wonder how all those staffers who abandoned Newt and jumped to Team Perry are feeling right about now?  Here's Perry playing defense (rather effectively, I'd add) after his terrible brain-lock moment in Wednesday's debate:

Gotta admire the guy for poking fun at himself, but ouch.

UPDATE - A CBS News poll puts Cain on top.

*UPDATE II - As several readers have pointed out, Ingraham's tweet indicates that it was, in fact, Newt who criticized Cain for having a few laughs at the expense of Anita Hill.  Ingraham was reporting what the former Speaker said on her radio program.