I refuse to believe that if, as is likely to happen, Herman Cain drops out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination next week, his support will fall to Newt Gingrich. I prefer to think that, instead, each of us is just going to get a little more popular.
In fact, there'll be an infinitesimal increase in popularity of everything everywhere: Men who've never had a date will suddenly get a date. Someone somewhere will order the tapioca pudding. One Segway will be sold. Three more people will get AOL accounts.
It's true that up until now, whenever Mr. Cain's campaign – which the media have taken to calling “embattled,” a word they like to use when they mean “failing,” much the way they use “disgruntled” when they mean “homicidal” – has faltered, Mr. Gingrich has risen in the polls. This may puzzle him as much as the next person. He has never seemed overly serious about his run. He opened an office in Iowa only this week.
Up until now, Mr. Gingrich has benefited from Mr. Cain's large surge and then larger crash. I'm reminded of the box-office success of the film Water For Elephants, which came out about the same time as the runaway hit Bridesmaids.
Person after person tweeted something along the lines of, “I just saw Water For Elephants because Bridesmaids was sold out. It was okay.” While out to see Bridesmaids, I heard dozens of people in the ticket line say, “Oh, man, really?” glance up at the movie times and sigh, “All right, Water For Elephants, I guess.”
Water For Elephants had excellent returns for several weeks. I hope the producers, who were perhaps startled by the grosses of their romantic drama about a circus, looked into those returns a little deeper and are not now working on a string of sequels in which various other liquids are brought to other large mammals.
Displaced enthusiasm can meander in odd directions. But in the final analysis, I don't believe Americans will shrug apologetically to their dates and vote for a man who is essentially the candidate who starts five minutes after Bridesmaids.
Support for Mitt Romney never seems to build, no matter what the other candidates do; if the line on Mr. Romney's approval ratings were on a heart monitor, they'd be harvesting organs.
Poor Jon Huntsman just stares back smart-struck at the debate audiences: At various points, they've booed a gay soldier, applauded the death of a hypothetical uninsured man and come close to giving the idea of evicting people from their homes a standing ovation. They seem keen to engage in an actual war with China.
When Mr. Huntsman speaks to those crowds, his face has a quizzical expression, as if he's thinking, “I wonder if it would work if I said all these perfectly sane things while wearing a really silly hat?”
Mr. Cain's support will not come to him. Nor to Ron Paul, who is just the wrong kind of crazy. Michele Bachmann is very possibly polling just fine in whatever dimension she's actually running in.
It's starting to look as if Republicans are dangerously close to nominating a podium. The actual candidates have reached support saturation, which is why I think almost everyone in the world should be allowed to apply for the Not-Herman-Cain Bump.
Everyone should receive a bonus for not being Herman Cain. The student who writes “U-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” on a geography test with only two beki's should get a marginally higher grade. Anyone who can remember which wars their country fought this year should be deemed qualified to run these wars and even start new ones.
If you've ever had something naughty you've wanted to do, do it now. For the next while, we'll all be graded on the Cain Curve. We're going to get off a little lighter – and that means kids caught smoking behind the high school, embarrassed-looking poodles found to have soiled the rug, even Anthony Weiner. All of whom are not Herman Cain.
The way I see it, the only person not eligible for the Cain bump is Newt Gingrich, simply by virtue of the fact that he's Newt Gingrich and, as such, is immune to the threat of being made to look better.
In fact, the name Newt Gingrich shouldn't even be in the same sentence as the word virtue. I'm getting away with it only because I'm not Herman Cain.