• With: Dan Henninger, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Kim Strassel, Bret Stephens

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," November 12, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," with two of his chief rivals on the ropes, will another candidate emerge as Mitt Romney's main challenger?

    Plus, a big win for big labor as Ohio voters reject restrictions on collective bargaining rights. Are unions making a comeback?

    And a new report says that Iran is just steps away from building a nuclear bomb. Will Israel attack before the west responds?

    Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    It was a rough week for GOP potentials. Herman Cain fighting off new allegations of sexual harassment and Rick Perry having a brain freeze at Wednesday night's Michigan debate. Will another candidate emerge from the GOP field as Mitt Romney's main challenger?

    Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; and editorial board members, Jason Riley and Dorothy Rabinowitz.

    So, Dan, I think after the debate, so question that Mitt Romney continues to be the strongest runner, the front runner who is likely to emerge here, but who is likely to rise to challenge him as the Iowa caucuses get closer?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, you know, Paul we get asked this a lot. Every time I go through this exercise, you say to yourself, you go through the list and you go, am I forgetting somebody? Am I sure Paul Ryan is not on that stage.

    GIGOT: The current candidates are making that big of an impression, are they?

    (LAUGHTER)

    HENNINGER: Yes. We have entered the "Twilight Zone" of presidential nominations, Herman Cain with his women problems and Rick Perry with his speaking problems, and Mitt Romney can't get above 25 percent. Apparently, he is sinking in the most recent polls. So, the answer? We are in a kind of unusual period with this, it's hard to predict. Herman Cain clearly has enough personal media charisma to be a strong candidate if this issue doesn't blow him up.

    GIGOT: You don't see him fading?

    HENNINGER: I don't see him fading unless one of these stories truly sinks him. Secondly on substantial, Newt Gingrich is clearly one person on the stage, other than Romney and maybe Huntsman, who is actually talking in some depth about issues that matter to people. So I think it's by and large those two.

    GIGOT: Herman Cain, Jason, is he going to make it through this? How has he done this week as opposed to last?

    JASON RILEY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, it looks like he's holding steady right now, but if you parse some of the poll numbers, Republican women, he's starting to lose ground with some of them, as might be expected. Whether he can hold up, I don't know. In the long run, I don't think so. Mitt Romney has had consistent trouble with two groups in the GOP, Evangelicals and Tea Party supporters. Those are the two groups that pushed Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry and now they're pushing Herman Cain. I think Cain's are ultimately going to fall. The question becomes, will those two groups resolve themselves to Mitt Romney or look to someone else like a Newt Gingrich. Time is running short, less than two months to Iowa.

    GIGOT: Dorothy, you wrote this week, you think that Newt Gingrich could be the one who emerges as the main challenger and could even win the nomination. What's your case?

    DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I do. I believe not only because of Romney's weaknesses, which are considerable, because he has not lost that sense of wanting the presidency so much, to put it blandly, that he would say anything. We have on the one hand a bunch of people who would not run for this office. On the other hand--

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: About whom you're very fond, I know.

    RABINOWITZ: Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

    On the other hand we have Mr. Romney who has this record, which he keeps repeating. What he did in Ohio after everything, after all of the talk about his waffling, to have backed out on that union business was very --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT:  That's a vulnerability for Romney. Why Gingrich?

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: He was ruled out three months ago?

    RABINOWITZ: I've had enough male on this, telling me anybody has been thinking this. Anybody who is exposed to Gingrich on the campaign trail, who listens to him, hears this extraordinary flow of substance, ringing conviction, which put at such dramatic odds as a leader and whose ideas are so contagious that he makes the room rise up.

    HENNINGER: Well, I think --

    (CROSSTALK)

    RABINOWITZ: This is an important thing in the presidential race.

    GIGOT: Clearly, he knows, Dan, he's the most knowledgeable about government of all of them on the stage. No doubt about that.

    HENNINGER: And that matters.

    GIGOT: It ought to matter, shouldn't it? Don't we want someone at least informed?

    HENNINGER: Yes. Exactly.

    (LAUGHTER)

    That I think was essentially Rick Perry's problem. This is the governor of Texas decided the last minute to run for the presidency. He's got to talk about Washington, whose issues by and large are an abstraction to a governor like that. He simply hasn't absorbed them. Like it or not, people are so mad and angry at Washington, if we're going to fix Washington, we're going to need a president who understands Washington, in depth, and understands its politics. An insider actually. And Newt Gingrich is clearly showing that he understands the details of the problem. And I think people are responding to that.

    RILEY: And he's talented. He's a talented politician. And we see that in the debates. And as Republicans watch his debates, they're imagining how this person might do against President Obama come October of next year, and clearly, Newt Gingrich looks like he'd be formidable person on the stage.

    GIGOT: Do you agree with Dan about Perry's problems? Because he came in the race with so much promise with his Texas jobs record, and assuming that would be perfect for the moment. Has his personal failings as a candidate trumped that message?