Newt Needs Cain to Hang Around

Newt Needs Cain; Jobs Number Spin Hard for Stimulus-Minded Dems; Presidential Relevancy Project Continues

Gingrich Needs Cain to Stay a Little Longer

“She is hurt that she didn't know about this friend that I was helping financially. There has been a male friend that I helped that she didn't know about -- but that doesn’t matter . . . she has forgiven me and loves me but the media has not moved on.”

-- Herman Cain in an interview on “Hannity with Sean Hannity.”

Newt Gingrich has benefited from the collapse of Herman Cain’s candidacy in a way that no other boomer in the GOP’s boom and bust cycle has so far, but the danger for Gingrich now is that Cain may be disappearing too swiftly.

In retrospect, Gingrich’s decision to head down to Texas for a (heavily) modified Lincoln-Douglas debate with Cain on Nov. 6, just as Cain’s always-improbable candidacy was starting to crack up, looks like one of the smartest decisions of the year.

Gingrich benefited by proximity to the then frontrunner on multiple levels.

It showed Gingrich as supportive of Cain at the moment when he was viewed most sympathetically by the GOP electorate and when conservative claims of “high-tech lynching” were running the hottest. Cain is now something of a pitiful figure, having struggled so mightily not only to explain the sex-related claims against him, but also to bear up under the withering spotlight that would be trained on any Republican nominee. A month ago, however, Cain was still defiant and experiencing what looked like it might have been the beginnings of a Palin Effect.

By Gingrich standing with him, it looked brave and made Gingrich the most obvious heir to his conservative supporters.

As an added bonus, Gingrich got to show up Cain while seeming to support him. Cain himself looked dazzled by Gingrich’s rhetorical acrobatics. While Cain struggled along on talking points, Professor Gingrich whizzed through his card catalogue of policy provisions.

It also helped Gingrich by contrasting Cain’s never-ending series of unhappy personal eruptions with Gingrich’s stale-seeming, decade-old personal issues. The implicit message to conservatives was this: If you’re willing to take a chance on a guy still unloading his baggage, how about somebody whose valises the media TSA had already rifled through a decade ago?

Under the boom and bust and boom cycle that had previously occurred for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Cain, Gingrich was positioned perfectly. Perry floated to the top of the pack, deflated over the course of a month and saw his supporters waft away to Gingrich and Cain before Cain pulled ahead.

It took Perry three months to go from 3 percent in the Real Clear Politics Average to 30 percent. It has taken him three months to go from 30 percent to 7 percent. Cain went from 4 percent to his peak of 26 percent in a month.

But Perry is still very much around. His actually humorous mini-skit with Jay Leno about the host not being able to name the third Kardashian sister is a good reflection of what Perry has become – an endearing second-tier candidate rather than the swaggerbot of his summer launch.

Perry’s continued presence helped Cain in that by holding on to a Ron Paul-sized chunk of voters, Perry prevented Gingrich from breaking into a two-man race with Cain for the GOP’s primary within a primary to be the conservative standard bearer.

But Cain isn’t hanging around. Power Play gets the sense that when he finally gets back to Atlanta to talk face-to-face with his wife for the first time about his decision to trade texts with and give money to Ginger White over the past 13 years, Cain won’t make it back to the trail.

Cain has made it abundantly clear that his wife has veto power over the continuation of his campaign, and what spouse would not be humiliated by having to learn on television that their significant other had been secretly slipping cash to someone he met at a conference in Louisville so long ago. Surely Gloria Cain has a right to be weary of her husband’s candidacy and surely the candidate himself has little cause to argue that his continued campaign is of any real importance.

Even if Cain is allowed back out of Atlanta following his weekend sit-down with his wife, his reassessments and holding patterns have sent the message to his backers that Cain is not serious. Even if Cain says he’s back on track on Monday, he has already excused his supporters for leaving him. Conservatives aren’t looking for a guy who has to go home and ask his wife for permission to keep running and isn’t sure if he will stay in the race.

As one former Alaska governor might say, don’t reassess, reload.

The trouble for Gingrich is that Cain isn’t doing what Perry is and hanging on. Cain maintained his Real Clear Politics Average high-point of 26 percent, essentially tied with Mitt Romney, for only two weeks. And he may go front frontrunner to hash mark in less than a month.

Gingrich would have been better off if Cain’s candidacy would have slowly withered. Gingrich wants to be in a two-way race with Romney and to have only to appear more conservative and more consistent than Romney.

Gingrich might survive daily releases of new skeletons from his past (the Wall Street Journal unearths this bone from 2007 when Gingrich was a paid plumper for a faltering Freddie Mac: "It's not a point of view libertarians would embrace, but I am more in the Alexander Hamilton-Teddy Roosevelt tradition of conservatism.” Bloomberg News reminds us that Gingrich once wrote a book called “Contract with the Earth.”) But only if juxtaposed as a binary choice with Romney.

Gingrich the known commodity looks good when the only other contender on the right is the rotting hulk of the Cain campaign, but if Cain is out of the picture a month before the Iowa caucuses, there’s still time for conservatives to reconsider their pick.

With Cain leaving on a very fast midnight train to Georgia, there is a chance that some other candidate will rise, or rise again, to rival Gingrich. It could be Rick Santorum’s turn on the horse or perhaps the start of a strange new romance among some conservatives for Jon Huntsman, whom many seem to think is more consistent than Gingrich and more conservative than Romney. And for those resigned to a Romney nomination, a protest vote for Ron Paul may look increasingly attractive.

But Perry looks like the best bet to challenge Gingrich. He’s got the money and the personnel and, thanks to being the governor of the state with the most Republicans, has a pretty durable core of national support. He may be too badly damaged by his debate blunders and the Social Security scare tactics employed by the Romney campaign to make it stick, but Perry looks to be the guy who will give Gingrich a run for his money.

Dems’ Cautious Cheer for 8.6 Unemployment

“We tried the payroll cut tax last year. And I supported it, but I will not double down on a failed policy.”

-- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in a speech on the Senate floor explaining his opposition to Republican and Democratic proposals to extend a partial payroll tax holiday.

Democrats have to be careful about how much they hype the drop in the unemployment rate for November.

Too much crowing will undercut their effort to pass the president’s effort to extend a payroll tax holiday and long-term unemployment benefits. Yes, the president can argue that his stimulus is working, but everyone involved understands that the top-line unemployment number is not as significant as job-creation trends and the real size of the workforce.

Democrats are still very worried about the health of the economy and the chance for more backsliding. Creating jobs at the clip of 120,000 a month is symptomatic of a “growth recession” in which gains in jobs and economic output are still technically positive, but not enough to keep pace with population growth.

While 8.6 percent of the workforce falls into the category of the newly unemployed who are still looking for work and receiving unemployment benefits, the real worry is the drop in the percentage of all adults working. In 2000, 67 percent of American adults worked. Now it’s 64.2 percent and falling as more Americans simply drop out. That strains welfare programs and decreases the nation’s economic output.

Those numbers are why Democrats have to be careful about playing up today’s 8.6 percent. They believe that continued government intervention is needed and don’t want to give Republicans any argument for paring back Obama’s stimulus initiatives. Claiming that Obamanomics is starting to work after three years will be a tough sell, because any improvements make expensive stimulus measures less attractive.

There is also, of course, the danger in over-hyping the monthly unemployment benefits number. If you build it up too much, it’s harder to downplay the subsequent jumps.

Obama Pledges Another $4 Billion to Anti-Irrelevancy Effort

“These are triple-win initiatives. We believe that could be game changing for the cause of energy efficient buildings in the United States.”

-- Gene Sperling, director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, talking to reporters about $4 billion in gifts to private firms and direct federal spending for environment-friendly building technology that Obama will announce today.

President Obama’s bridge to his general-election campaign theme is “we can’t wait,” which is a swipe at Republicans refusal to agree to extend the president’s economic policies.

Obama gave the GOP one last chance to go along with his Labor Day campaign kickoff (“pass this bill”) and now has adopted a posture of public exasperation.

Today’s announcement is that the president will use his executive powers to direct that $2 billion be given away to encourage private-sector transitions to “green building” technology, presumably solar panels, energy efficient windows, no-flush urinals etc. Another $2 billion will be directly spent to outfit government building with grass roofs and the like.

Power Play wishes to stress to partisans on both sides: This is strictly fleabite stuff.

The president is committing $4 billion over the span of two years to this project. That’s equivalent to one day’s federal borrowing. It’s less money than Obama ally Warren Buffett sunk into the struggling Bank of America as the White House-backed management team there faltered. It’s $1.1 billion less than the U.S. Postal Service’s losses in the last fiscal year alone.

But the White House and Obama campaign are treating it as if it were a “game changing” move, even trotting out Bill Clinton for the event. Clinton, perhaps jealous of Newt Gingrich’s moment as the most nationally notable relic of the mid-1990s, has been increasingly popping up at Obama events.

This is good short-term politics for Obama as it reminds moderate Democrats of a bygone era in their party and seems to put Clinton’s stamp of approval on the president’s policies. Whether it is a good long-term strategy for Obama to so often elevate the “Big He” remains to be seen. Clinton has yet to prove a very reliable political ally, even to his own wife.

The leitmotif for Obama’s campaign is stressing the awfulness of Republicans: I may be no bargain but these guys are worse. But the theme for this act is that Obama still matters.

Obama has been in blame avoidance/blame shifting mode on the biggest issues in Washington today – particularly in the ongoing debacle surrounding the increase of the federal debt limit to $16.7 trillion. But, as Chris Christie’s taunting (“What the hell are we paying you for?”) has proven, the blame evasion game has its downsides. Obama has succeeded in deepening Americans hatred for Washington but also has cast himself as a prisoner of it.

That’s why the White House has been serving up nothingburgers as if they were 12-bone standing ribs – mortgage modifications, student-loan subsidies, etc. have all been unveiled as if they were the second coming of the New Deal. Yes, it infuriates conservatives to see Obama yanking at the remaining levels of federal intervention he has not yet pulled, but at least it gives the impression of relevancy.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“The most important issue for Israel is security is Iran. And this is a president who at the time of maximum weakness of the mullahs in 2009 did not lift a finger to help the revolution because he had another delusion that if he engaged in negotiations with the mullahs he could sweet talk Iran of our its weapons. The policy is a failure. He knows it. And we are on the threshold of Iran becoming a nuclear power.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on