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Cain Stumbles on Libya Questions

The Morning Line

It was Rick Perry’s “oops” moment in last week’s Republican presidential debate in Michigan that drew attention away from Herman Cain and the sexual harassment allegations that have engulfed his campaign.

Monday, Cain let Perry off the hook, stepping in it, as the Texas governor would say, for a good five minutes during a question-and-answer session with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about whether he supported President Obama’s handling of the uprising in Libya.

“OK, Libya,” Cain said, before pausing 10 seconds to collect his thoughts. “President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gadhafi. Just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say, ‘Yes I agree,’ or ‘No, I didn’t agree.'”

“I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason,” Cain said, before stopping abruptly again. “Nope, that’s a different one,” he continued, shifting in his seat and looking at the ceiling. “I gotta go back to, see — Got all this stuff twirling around in my head.”

Cain then asked for clarification about the question. “Specifically, what are you asking me, did I agree or not disagree with?”

After one of the Journal staffers rephrased the question, Cain finally said: “Here’s what I would have — I would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is and I’m sure that our intelligence people have some of that information. Based upon who made up that opposition, OK, based upon who made up that opposition, might have caused me to make some different decisions about how we participated.”

For Cain, the latest episode speaks to a growing narrative of the candidate as someone who is not well versed in foreign policy.

Cain himself has almost made that fact a point of pride, telling one interviewer recently that he did not think it mattered if he knew who the leader of “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” was.

In an interview with the PBS NewsHour last month, he also said that China was attempting to develop a nuclear weapon despite the fact that the country tested its first nuclear weapon in the 1960s.

A new CNN poll has found that Cain’s standing in the GOP field dropped by 11 points in the last month as the candidate defended himself from the harassment accusations. Monday’s misstep will have Cain playing defense on two fronts — a situation not likely to help him bounce back in the polls.

STILL GRIDLOCKED

It’s the same old song Tuesday for the supercommittee as both sides talked behind closed doors with no resolution in sight. The Nov. 23 deadline is fast approaching, and all signs point to the committee failing to meet the minimum $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

Politico’s Manu Raju and Jake Sherman detail the “punt formation” that the supercommittee might adopt to essentially push the responsibility onto other committees in Congress:

Under one scenario: The supercommittee could lay out a dollar figure for savings under tax reform but leave the specifics — the hardest part — to the regular committees. If the House and Senate committees fail to come to agreement, there could be automatic cuts to federal programs or potentially increases in revenue. Democrats said it would be in Republicans’ interest to raise revenue from tax reform to avoid the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts at the end of 2012.

But there are even major differences on how they would go about this. Differences range from how much revenue should come as a result of these tax changes, the parameters for structuring a future overhaul, how the committees should handle entitlements like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, whether tax rates on capital gains and ordinary income should be raised — and how to make sure the committees don’t kick the can down the road themselves.

One option for cutting into the deficit is to use the ending of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan toward the savings. Lori Montgomery from the Washington Post reports that the committee was considering counting $700 billion of unused war funds toward the $1.2 trillion goal.

But because of criticism from both parties over that tactic, lawmakers want to instead count that $700 billion toward unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts.

From the Post:

Aides from both parties said the panel would not count war savings toward its primary debt-reduction goal of at least $1.2 trillion. Instead, they are considering using the savings to “pay for” other priorities, such as extending emergency unemployment benefits and a temporary payroll tax cut currently enjoyed by every American worker.

While Capitol Hill toils over these details there’s evidence that many Americans are unaware of the failing efforts to reduce the deficit. A Politico/George Washington University Battleground poll found that 50 percent of registered likely voters aren’t familiar with the supercommittee.

HUNTSMAN’S HELPERS

Jon Huntsman is getting a little help from his friends.

The Huntsman-backing political action committee, Our Destiny, is going on the air Tuesday in New Hampshire with a minute-long television spot highlighting the GOP hopeful’s background as governor of Utah and a three-time U.S. ambassador, most recently to China.

Huntsman has made no secret that New Hampshire is critical to his bid for the Republican nomination, shifting his campaign operation to the Granite State from Florida in late September.

He received the support of 6 percent of New Hampshire Republicans in a CNN/Time/ORC International poll released in October, which placed him fourth, behind Mitt Romney at 40 percent, Cain at 13 percent and Ron Paul at 12 percent.

Huntsman is hoping to chip away at Romney’s support in the state, and while the ad from Our Destiny doesn’t mention the former Massachusetts governor by name, it does play off a familiar theme against Romney — painting him as someone who has changed his positions on a variety of issues.

The three individuals who appear in the ad combine to deliver the following line: “The world is literally collapsing and no one has shown up we can trust as a conservative … who actually has a chance to win … and not some phony who tells me one thing and you another.”

Campaign finance laws prohibit Team Huntsman and Our Destiny PAC from coordinating efforts, but the two organizations appear to be very much on the same page.

GIFFORDS SPEAKS

On Monday, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., gave in her first extended interview since being shot in the head outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store last January.

Asked by Diane Sawyer of ABC News if she wanted to return to Washington, Giffords said, “No. Better.” As she struggled to find more words, Giffords’ husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, said, “She wants to get better.”

Giffords appeared to have difficulty carrying on a detailed conversation, uttering mostly phrases. “Pretty good, difficult. Strong, strong, strong,” Giffords responded when asked about how she was feeling and her journey these past 10 months.

Sawyer asked if Giffords was angry about what happened to her. “No, no, no. Life, life,” Giffords responded.

Kelly remarked that episode may never had happened if the alleged gunman, Jared Loughner, had received the help he needed. “If he had received some treatment, this probably never would have happened,” Kelly said.

Loughner is being forcibly medicated at a Missouri prison to improve his condition so that he can be mentally competent to stand trial. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • Rick Perry holds a town hall in Bettendorf, Iowa, at 10:30 a.m.
  • Herman Cain visits MannaJava World Cafe in Dubuque, Iowa, at 10:45 a.m. and stops by his campaign headquarters in Urbandale at 3:45 p.m.
  • Mitt Romney discusses jobs, the economy and labor policy in Columbia, S.C., at 11:15 a.m.
  • Newt Gingrich meets with employees of Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield, Iowa, at 1 p.m., tours Osage Middle School at 3:30 p.m. and visits the North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City at 5 p.m.
  • Rick Santorum hosts three Iowa town halls: — in Anamosa at 1 p.m., in Dyersville at 4 p.m. and in Dubuque at 7:30 p.m. He holds a media availability before his Dubuque town hall at 7:15 p.m.
  • Jon Huntsman holds a town hall in Portsmouth, N.H., at 7 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

 

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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