They may seem all but forgotten, but there are still seven other presidential candidates trying to get voters to pay attention to them while Herman Cain does inexplicable things on television. These are there stories. They really, really don't want to talk about Cain, trying to acknowledge the controversy without indicating whether they believe the sexual harassment allegations. Mitt Romney called them "disturbing," Rick Santorum called them "troubling," Gingrich and Huntsman told Cain to answer the questions, and Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry refused to give any advice.
Mitt Romney Trying to Stay Moderate
Ahead of the ninth Republican primary debate in Detroit on Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee is attacking Romney for saying back in 2008 that the Big Three automakers shouldn't be bailed out, Politico's Alexander Burns reports. The DNC says, "What was Mitt Romney's plan for Michigan's automobile industry? 'Let Detroit go bankrupt.'" But Romney's defending his position, telling Fox News Tuesday, "I was frankly right. They had to go through managed bankruptcy ... They finally went through bankruptcy."
The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza says Romney's made some other calls more recently that he's going to have a harder time defending. On the two most controversial state ballot measures voted on last night -- a anti-abortion rule in Mississippi and an anti-union bill in Ohio -- Romney tried to avoid taking a stand on them till the last minute. He picked the losing side both times. The losing side happened to be the conservative side, and Lizza writes that his handling of these "hot-button Election Day issues suggests some bloody weeks ahead. He must still deal with a cast of rather extreme conservative opponents who are unlikely to quit the race ... [who'll] continue to challenge Romney from the right, testing his ability to maintain the aura of a moderate Republican."
Rick Perry Trying to Look Nicer
Last month, The Washington Post asked a focus group of Ohio to say whatever came to mind when they thoughtof each presidential candidate as a fifth grade student. A large majority had a single image of Perry: "bully." Perry's countering that image with a series of warm-and-fuzzy ads in Iowa. The Wall Street Journal's Danny Yadron calls the ad, which focuses on Perry's humble background and military service, "the latest example of Mr. Perry and his supporters trying to show a sunnier side of the governor after a rocky stretch at debates and on the campaign trail." Want evidence of how nice Perry can be? He told ABC News that he likes Vice President Joe Biden! "I can sit down and talk to Joe Biden ... I think he gets it," Perry said. Yadron writes, "it will be interesting to watch if viewers get the positive Mr. Perry of Iowa, or the attack dog of debates past." Here's a clue: CBS News' Scott Conroy reports Perry's been studying up before Wednesday's debate. "Perry is spending more time preparing for the latest forum, according to aides, as he has engaged in informal study sessions with top aides rather than participate in mock debates," Conroy writes.
Ron Paul Is Denying He'll Be a Spoiler
Paul says he doesn't want to run as a third party candidate in the general election, but some still see an opening. He said on Fox News Sunday, “I have no intention of doing that. That doesn't make sense to me to even think about it, let alone plan to do that.” But people can't stop talking about a third-party run for Paul, The Christian Science Monitor's Amanda Paulson notes. That's because Paul also said he wouldn't necessarily endorse the Republican nominee, if he thought that candidate's beliefs would be a betrayal of his supporters. "Given the loyalty of his followers, it's hard to see them easily shifting to another candidate once – or if – he bows out of the race," Paulson writes. The Hill's Brent Budowsky says that's why Paul will be a kingmaker in the primary race, because Republicans are dividing delegates proportionally. If Romney is in first place, it's possible he won't have enough delegates to win the nomination, Budowsky writes, and so Paul's decision whether or not to endorse would be decisive.
Michele Bachmann Trying to Look Competitive
Bachmann is struggling to make a comeback, and she's started attacking her rivals more, "I want South Carolinians to know there are no policy inconsistencies with me. You won’t find any surprises with me," she said, the Boston Herald reports. She said Republicans have to pick a conservative nominee in 2012, The New York Times reports, because "We cannot preserve liberty for ourselves and our posterity if the choice in next November is between a frugal socialist and an out-of-control socialist." But not a lot of people are hearing that message. The Herald reports that Bachmann spoke to about 40 people in a meeting hall in Columbia, South Carolina, Tuesday, a sharp contrast from when she visited Lexington, and 300 people greeted her with "Don't Tread on Me" flags just a couple days after she announced her candidacy.
Jon Huntsman Trying to Be the Next Boomlet
The "second look at Jon Huntsman" meme continues. The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart and The Daily Beast's McKay Coppins both float the possibility that Republicans will decide they don't hate the moderate Huntsman after all. Hot Air's Ed Morrissey is unconvinced:
[Huntsman's] advocated for government solutions to global warming (as did Pawlenty at one point, but who also entirely recanted), which is anathema to the conservative base. Newt Gingrich has only flirted with that idea and it’s still an albatross to his ability to win conservative support.
Newt Gingrich Is Trying to Look Serious
That albatross is one Gingrich is still trying to shed. He told Fox News Tuesday that the 2008 ad he cut with Nancy Pelosi calling for action on climate change was "probably the dumbest single thing I’ve done in recent years." He's been criticized for running for president just to sell books -- his novel came out this week -- but CNN's Shawna Shepherd reports he's building the biggest campaign operation in South Carolina.