Cain and Perry Face Critical Weeks Ahead

Businessman Herman Cain, whose campaign has been surging after his strong performance in Florida’s “Presidency 5” straw poll, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose campaign has seen its momentum decline after he angered conservatives by saying those who did not support giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants did not have “a heart,” have collided in the polls as their respective numbers have gone in opposite directions.

Yesterday, their campaigns clashed when The Washington Post reported that a hunting property the Perry family leased was offensively named, “Niggerhead.” 

“There isn’t a more vile, negative word than the ‘n word,'” Cain said in an interview on “FOX News Sunday,” before adding that “for [Perry] to leave it there as long as they did is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country.”

Perry’s communications director Ray Sullivan immediately challenged Cain and the report.

“Mr. Cain is wrong about the Perry family’s quick action to eliminate the word on the rock, but is right the word written by others long ago is insensitive and offensive,” Sullivan said in a statement. “That is why the Perrys took quick action to cover and obscure it.”

When the offensive words were obscured is at the heart of the dispute, as the story cited numerous anonymous sources that said the words were visible long after the date on which Perry claimed they were painted over. 

Perry told The Washington Post in a statement that, “the old name has its origins from another time and era when unfortunately, offensive language was used to name some land formations around the country. When my dad joined the lease in 1983, he soon painted over the offensive word. It is my understanding that the rock was also turned over to further obscure what was originally written on it.”

The Perry campaign also pointed to his “long and strong record of inclusiveness and appointing African Americans to key state posts, including Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, his former chief of staff and general counsels, university regents, parks and wildlife commissioner and other high profile posts.”

Whether it is fair, Perry will be dogged by questions about the story this week and his electability will be challenged. And while the hype surrounding this story may supplant his troubles on the right with his stance on giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, illegal immigration is still a huge roadblock in his path to the GOP nomination. 

Meanwhile, Cain, who will try to be the beneficiary of Perry’s stumbles, will hope to take advantage of the media blitz that came his way after his “Presidency 5” victory and will intensify as he meets with fellow businessman Donald Trump today before his book, This Is Herman Cain!” is released on Tuesday. 

Over the weekend, Cain’s communications director Ellen Carmichael, who is very highly regarded in the political world for her professionalism, resigned from the Cain campaign. 

As the Cain campaign retools its staff, it must get ready for the opportunities that it has been presented with in addition to anticipating the lines of attacks that may come his way, as with increased popularity and success comes more intense scrutiny.

Cain is on the cusp of becoming a top-tier candidate while Perry could be steps away from second-tier status. How their campaigns manage the next few weeks may determine where their campaigns ultimately end up.