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So far, non-Mitt Romney candidate haven't weathered mini-scandals well, and now it's Herman Cain's turn to prove whether his own candidacy can hang on amid reports that the National Restaurant Association paid settlements to two women who accused him of sexual harassment. Several of the Republican presidential candidates wallowing in the single digits of polls were briefly held up as anti-Romney salvation before being cast aside like speed dating rejects over minor flaws that were the political equivalent of bad taste in shoes. The story about Cain is easy to understand and has a paper trail, but Cain can survive it better than the Not Romneys before him, because whatever he did, it didn't involve any ideological heresies.

Conservatives are rushing to defend Cain. Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show Monday, "After all of these years, none of us should be surprised and I still am: Look at how quickly what is known as the 'mainstream media' goes for the ugliest racial stereotypes they can to attack a black conservative," the Daily Caller notes. Ann Coulter called the story a "high-tech lynching." Talk show host Laura Ingraham flagged a woman named Natalie as making the "Call of the Day" for calling for a protest of Politico, the first news organization to report the story.

Natalie: "You could rouse everyone up to set up pickets outside the news station, saying, 'we want to hear the sources, come out, speak, be identified' and literally try to shame these people and stand up for Herman Cain ... We need to stand up behind this citizen candidate.
Ingraham: You're saying Occupy Politico ... They're occupying Wall Street, we need [an] I got [it].

Why are they defending Cain when they so quickly forgot about the candidates who went before him? Because Cain is being attacked by the political correctness police -- liberals. The previous Not Romney candidates, on the other hand, made the mistake of sounding like liberals. Before Cain, Rick Perry was the candidate that briefly overtook Romney in the polls -- before he threw it all away by sounding kind of lefty on immigration. (In-state college tuition for illegal immigrants was, Perry said, "sending a message to young people, regardless of what the sound of their last name is, that we believe in you.") Before Perry there was Michele Bachmann, who lost her support by saying vaccines cause mental retardation, just like Hollywood liberal Jenny McCarthy. Before Bachmann, there was Newt Gingrich, who lost his entire campaign staff after he called a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare "right-wing social engineering." And, of course, the reason there needs to be a Not Romney at all is that Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts was a model for President Obama's health care law.

Cain has one other thing going for him: desperation. Republican voters can now hear the electoral clock ticking. The Iowa caucuses are in two months, and it's too late for new candidates to get in the race. In the summer, conservatives could still dream that a knight in shining armor like Chris Christie or Paul Ryan could swoop in and save them from Romney. But that never happened. The dating pool isn't growing, it's shrinking. It's time to settle on one of these guys.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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