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THE CAIN BONANZA

“If Herman Cain really ends up dropping out of the race, Newt Gingrich’s surge should continue in the next few weeks, unless or until something starts happening to erode his popularity. Why? Because Cain’s supporters absolutely love Gingrich. And they absolutely hate Mitt Romney,” says Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, which tracked to find that 69 percent of Mr. Cain’s fans like Mr. Gingrich, compared with 31 percent who favor Mr. Romney.

“If Cain’s support fades to zero in the next few weeks, whether because he drops out or because people abandon him because of all his issues, Newt Gingrich is going to keep on climbing. He’s going to get stronger before he gets weaker. Gingrich’s fall may come, and if history is any guide in this race it will probably come before Iowa,” Mr. Jensen adds.

There’s a recent gauge of public sentiment toward such complexities. A Public Religion Research Institute survey released in June found that six out of 10 Americans say elected officials should be held to a higher moral standard than everyone else. But financial sins are worse than the sexual variety, apparently. Among many revelations, the poll found that 87 percent of Americans say a politician who takes a bribe should resign, compared with 54 percent who say officials who cheat on their spouses should leave office.

THE CHRISTMAS WARS

Ukrainian singer Ruslana performs at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation gala in Washington on Thursday to celebrate two decades of Ukraine independence. (image from www.ruslana.ua)

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Ukrainian singer Ruslana performs at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation gala in Washington on ... more >

It’s not even December. But the Yule duel is on. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee refuses to call the 17-foot spruce tree in the Statehouse rotunda a “Christmas tree,” despite the fact that state lawmakers passed a resolution this year declaring that the official tree would be a “Christmas tree.”

Mr. Chafee rationalizes his decision by pointing out that the 17-foot spruce in question “stands mere feet from the Royal Charter that, more than three centuries ago, granted ‘a full liberty in religious concernments’ and ‘the free exercise and enjoyment of all their civil and religious rights’ to the inhabitants of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”

Rep. Doreen Costa, a Republican who sponsored the Christmas tree resolution, says Mr. Chafee is “disrespecting the legislature and takes political correctness too far.” She’s also setting up a Christmas tree in her Statehouse office, and her constituents appear to be on her side. A Providence Journal reader poll finds that 88 percent want a state “Christmas” tree, 7 percent favor a “holiday” spruce and 1 percent would go for “Tannenbaum.”

Notes one annoyed Journal reader: “Will it still be called ‘fruitcake,’ governor?”

BUMPER PATROL

“All the best political jokes are in office.”

- (Bumper sticker spotted in Daytona Beach, Fla.)

KUDOS FOR MICHELE

A dozen Republican debates still loom on the campaign calendar, the next scheduled for Dec. 10 in Des Moines, Iowa. Predictably, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich often rule the roost as far as face time and podium prowess goes, according to multiple analysts who track candidate performance.

But “clarity of message, optimism of message, and charisma” matter, says Brad Phillips, a media trainer who pored over the past 10 debates to declare Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich in the lead with B+ and B grades, respectively. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are at the bottom of the heap, at C and C-.

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