What the Rest of the Republican Candidates Did This Week

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There are other candidates in the Republican presidential race besides Herman Cain, and they are doing things other than denying they had anything to do with leaking his sexual harassment story. Here's what's happening in the rest of the campaign as they try their best to avoid talking about Cain:

Mitt Romney's campaign is pretending to exist in a parallel universe, in which the subject line of a campaign email -- "RICK PERRY'S TOUGH WEEK" -- refers to some alternate campaign reality where Republicans are riveted by his fight to fend off the Texas governor. But back in the real world, Romney's detailing his plan to cut government spending at the libertarian group Americans for Prosperity's Defending the American Dream Summit Friday. (Romney and Cain are the only two candidates speaking at the event; the group reportedly owes money to Prosperity USA, a group started by Cain's campaign manager accused of illegally donating to Cain's campaign.) Romney previewed his plan Thursday in an op-ed in USA Today. Romney emphasizes his experience turning around struggling businesses: "Any turnaround must begin with clear and realistic goals," he writes. His plan is to bring federal spending down to 20 percent of the gross domestic product from the 24.3 percent seen last year. He'll "return federal programs to the states" including "block grant Medicaid and workforce training," and improve efficiency of the bureaucracy.
While Romney gives his anti-spending speech, Rick Perry is trying to paint him as pro-spending and pro-Wall Street. And even though he was rather dismissive of a (fake) Occupy Wall Street protester this week, he appears to be adopting some of the activists' message. "In addition to consistently supporting the 2008 Wall Street bailout, Mitt Romney refuses to rule out future government bailouts," his campaign says. "If you are too big to fail, you are too big ... I don’t care whether you are a country or whether you are a corporation." Perry said Thursday in Iowa,  according to The New York TimesRichard A. Oppel Jr. "Wall Street and Washington, D.C. have been in bed together way too long." Of his tax plan, with an optional 20 percent flat tax, Perry said "The establishment really doesn't like [it]." Meanwhile, Perry is getting sympathy from an unlikely source: Howard Dean's 2004 campaign manager Joe Trippi. Dean laments that the viral video showing a giddy Perry speech could ruin his candidacy, just like Dean's own famous Iowa scream. "It's probably going to be damaging to him, and it could be as completely unfair as the Dean video was," Trippi told Politico's Reid J. Epstein. “The video obviously, when you look at it, you think he looks a little out of it. In both instances, it may be that in the room, if you were there, you didn't get the sense that people get in the video, which is one of the reasons they both went viral."
Rick Santorum is getting philosophical, we think. In Iowa Thursday, he said something NBC News' First Read calls Yogi Berra-esque: "We want to win [in Iowa], and that’s what we are aiming for, but obviously if you are sitting in the back of the polls, a win is not necessarily the only way you can come out of here with a win." Santorum was the first candidate to visit all of Iowa's 99 counties this week, the Des Moines Register's Jason Noble reports. Noble described this odd moment as he celebrated his Iowa tour:
To commemorate his travels, he asked an Iowa trivia question – What is the city of Le Mars named after? – and offered an autographed copy of his book in exchange for the right answer. Unfortunately, nobody knew it. (It’s an acronym, he said, for the names of six mail-order brides who were brought to the town.)
Michele Bachmann was also in Iowa, where she accused Al Franken of stealing the 2008 election in which he won his Senate seat after a recount battle, NBC News' Jamie Novogrod reports. "But for Al Franken, in a stolen election by the way -- although that probably doesn’t surprise you ... But for Al Franken we wouldn’t have Obamacare," Bachmann said. "We wouldn’t have Dodd-Frank.  And you see, that's why all our chips are on the line." And Franken's said such nice things about her! She told her hometown paper in Ames, Iowa that "I am the Tea Party candidate, so I think that speaks for itself." About the Tea Party leader who urged her to drop out of the race last week, Bachmann said, "We were informed that it was the Perry campaign that was behind that letter from the so-called Tea Party individual. It appears that it was a campaign smear." So Cain's not the only one ready to blame Perry for bad press. Still, it's hard for the other candidates to avoid talking about Cain. Bachmann refused to comment on the story Friday:

Jon Huntsman, meanwhile, made a subtle reference to Cain's situaiton. In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, he told a crowd, "The way politics plays out these days, with all the modes of communication things can turn in 48 hours, and I say we've got an eternity left when you look at today through the end of the year and then beyond into January ... We have plenty of time, no question about it," CNN's Shawna Shepherd reports. But when asked about the scandal directly, he said it was a distraction, taking up "a lot of bandwidth out of our discussion."
The National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke says one unexpected name keeps coming up among the protesters at Occupy Wall Street: Ron Paul. 
You see, Ron Paul is angry, too, and he wants to “restore” America to its old ways. The majority of Paul’s policy positions may be radically different, but much of his rhetoric is in line with Occupy Wall Street’s, particularly his anti-Hamiltonian conviction that the banks have callously denatured the United States. ...
The protesters I spoke to today were predominantly appalled when I told them of Paul’s attitude towards Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the federal government in general, not to mention of his deregulatory zeal and staunch pro-life commitment. But, ultimately, this didn’t matter as much as the fact that he wants “change,” too.

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