The fact that racism's hand hasn't been seen in the sex harassment case against Herman Cain, so far accused by two white women, is a sign both that racial politics since President Obama's election has died down and that the GOP is determined to show support for the first major black conservative to run for president, no matter what.
"Gradually we are changing the nature of race and politics," says the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato.
Pollster John Zogby agrees and adds that Republicans have for so long been accused of racism that many will stick with Cain to the end. "His supporters are going to need the video and the smoking gun to change their minds," he says. Even southern white male voters, he says, aren't abandoning Cain.
Zogby suggests that Cain's backers might be using "selective screening" when viewing the harassment charges. "If you really like a guy, you are in denial," says Zogby.
Sabato, who notes that the accusers are both white and blond, says the scandal isn't having much of an impact among Republicans and certainly isn't detouring into racism. "Republicans are thrilled to have Cain in their pool" of candidates, he says, because "for years they have been told that they are racist." Now, he adds, they have a black candidate that they can vote for and aren't ready to give him up over the charges. "They are determined to look past it," he says. [Check out a slide show of GOP spouses on the 2012 campaign trail.]
But Zogby urges that Cain enjoy his ride. He suggests that Cain's polling will fall off if the scandal persists into the weekend.
"My gut sense is that in many ways he's probably the Howard Dean of this race," says Zogby, who writes the weekly presidential report card for Washington Whispers, of the former 2000 Democratic candidate who led the polls until the voting began. "The closer that Republicans voters get to figuring out that they really want to win this, the more he fizzles."