Is this a transgression too far for Herman Cain?

The former businessman is "reassessing" his campaign amid the allegation of a 13 year affair.

It looks like the campaign of Herman '9-9-9' Cain could have been dealt a final coup de grace following revelations of a 13-year affair with businesswoman Ginger White. In a message to supoprters, Cain has said he will "reassess" the future of his campaign.

These have been a tumultuous few weeks for the former Godfather's Pizza CEO. After unexpectedly becoming the frontrunner in the Republican race, a series of sexual harassment allegations from his past surfaced, seriously denting his poll lead. Cain did his best to brush them off, but White's claims might be harder to discount.

Cain, who strongly refutes White's allegations ("I deny those charges, unequivocally"), previously claimed that the sexual harassment charges were a "witch-hunt" and a "smear campaign" aimed at sabotaging his poll lead. It appears that this approach may have encouraged White to speak out. She told an American TV network:

It bothered me that they were being demonised, sort of ... they were treated as if they were automatically lying, and the burden of proof was on them. I felt bad for them.

If the allegations are proved to be true, it is surprising that Cain's campaign were so blind to these lurking scandals, and that there was no contingency plan in place. Perhaps this is the down side of the very thing that attracted his supporters -- his status as a Washington outsider.

Cain has attempted to discredit her, but the veracity of the claim may be largely irrelevant (as he recognised in his statement, the damage could be done: "We have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people's minds"). Cain's main support base is the ultra-conservative and anti-Washington Tea Party, who were attracted by his unconventional approach. This transgression of the Seventh Commandment may be a step too far for these religious conservatives.

While Cain insists that the Cain Train is a still-a-rolling -- "9-9-9, 9-9-9. We're doing fine." -- the question remains as to who his supporters will flock to next should his campaign, as expected, concede defeat.

Rick Perry is a likely contender for those votes, as the gap between Cain and current favourite Newt Gingritch seems too hard to bridge. But for Mitt Romney, the chance to run against Obama in 2012 is getting closer and closer. All his campaign has to do is keep up the momentum, keep their heads down, and watch everyone else destroy themselves.

Ellie Foreman-Peck
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Martin Schulz: could this man bring an end to the reign of Angela Merkel?

The German Eurocrat is the biggest threat to the possibility of a fourth term for Merkel. 

At first sight, Martin Schulz looks like an unlikely political saviour. Thin of hair and thick of waist, the 61-year-old was a member of the European Parliament for 23 years and its president for five. In an anti-establishment age, it was predicted that Schulz would struggle when he became the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) candidate to replace Angela Merkel as the German chancellor in January. Instead, he is spearheading a remarkable revival in his tribe’s fortunes. On 19 February, for the first time in a decade, the SPD polled above Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), attracting 33 per cent to their 32 per cent. The SPD vote share has increased by 12 points in a month. The cause is clear: “Martin mania”.

For months, it was assumed that Merkel would secure a fourth term as chancellor in September’s federal election. The SPD, the grandfather of European social democracy and Germany’s oldest party (it was founded in 1863), had polled as low as 19 per cent. After forming a grand coalition with the CDU in 2013, Schulz’s party was marginalised as Merkel claimed credit for policies such as the country’s first minimum wage. Voters defected to the far-left Die Linke and the far-right Alternative für Deutschland. The SPD’s future looked to be one of managed decline.

Sigmar Gabriel, the party’s leader since 2009, stood little chance of supplanting Merkel as chancellor. As a result, like François Hollande, he reached for the pearl-handled revolver: he announced his intention to step aside on 24 January after internal SPD polling showed that Schulz would perform significantly better against Merkel. “It was not an easy decision but I’m convinced it was the right decision,” Gabriel told reporters. His judgement was vindicated as public polls gave Schulz an 11-point lead over Merkel (49-38).

The German chancellor’s apparent unassailability owed less to her strength than to her opponents’ weakness. Eleven years after she entered office, voters had grown weary of Merkel’s leadership but saw no viable alternative. In Schulz, they have found one. Having been engaged at EU level and held no domestic office since standing down after 11 years as mayor of the north-western market town Würselen in 1998, Schulz has been embraced by voters as a relative outsider.

Unlike his SPD colleagues, Schulz can criticise the CDU’s record without appearing hypocritical or feeble. He has attracted voters with a centre-left emphasis on redistribution and social justice. “When people see that their taxes are used to give their children a future, they buy into it,” Schulz has said in interviews.

The European Parliament has been a useful platform for his pugnacious style. He is best known for being compared to a concentration camp guard by Silvio Berlusconi in 2003 and for his interjection in 2010 after Nigel Farage branded the then EU president, Herman Van Rompuy, a “damp rag”. Schulz retorted: “It’s not right that this man should be able to trample over the dignity of this house!”

Voters have warmed to Schulz’s personal story as well as his political history. He was born on 20 December 1955 in the village of Hehlrath, North-Rhine Westphalia, to a policeman father and a homemaker mother (he is the youngest of five). Rather than going to university, he trained as a bookseller and was a promising footballer. Two severe knee injuries ended his playing career at the age of 18 and he sought refuge in alcohol after falling into depression. Having contemplated suicide, he recovered to open a bookshop in his home town (which he ran until he became an MEP in 1994) and has been teetotal since 1980.

Schulz educated himself by devouring historical fiction (his favourite writers are John Steinbeck and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa) and retains the restlessness of an autodidact (he often works 18-hour days). His bonhomie and blunt manner appeal to voters who regard Merkel as aloof.

That Schulz has come to the SPD’s rescue is unsurprising. He joined the party at the age of 19 and became the youngest mayor in North-Rhine Westphalia when he was elected in Würselen at 31. After more than two decades serving the EU, the attractions of a return to domestic politics were obvious. “People must look into your eyes and see that you are a bloody streetfighter,” he remarked in 2013, as he presciently dismissed Ed Miliband’s electoral chances.

Schulz has disoriented the Christian Democrats, who failed to anticipate a centre-left renaissance. In a mark of how much he has unsettled them, the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has denounced him as a Trump-like populist for his slogan “Make Europe great again”. Were Schulz to replace Merkel and Emmanuel Macron to be elected French president, the pair would unite in seeking to impose punitive Brexit terms on the UK.

For Germany’s Social Democrats, the fear is that Schulz’s surge has come too soon – voters could swing back to Merkel and the CDU before polling day. But after years as an emblem of centre-left malaise, the SPD has momentum. Schulz is determined to prove that there are second acts in political lives. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 24 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The world after Brexit