After a week of feeble attempts at damage control, he’s finally hit on a savvier approach.

“It’s a good thing the voters are not looking at Karl Rove’s little whiteboard,” Cain said in a phone conversation from a stop in Chicago Monday afternoon. “I believe it is a deliberate attempt to damage me because I am not, quote unquote, the establishment choice. But why not go with the choice that the people seem to like?”

Cain accused Rove of bias in favor of candidates with big organizations, lots of money, and prior experience in political office — all things Cain doesn’t have. “What has Karl Rove done?” Cain continued. “If I become the nominee, he has given Democrats talking points for a commercial to attack me. It makes no sense unless it’s a deliberate attempt on his part to try to push me down so that the candidate he wants rises to the top.”

When asked which candidate he believes Rove supports, Cain said, “I believe he wants Romney to get it.”

Follow the last link for Rove’s reply. (Sample quote: “[H]e should not expect everybody to be cheerleading every mistake he makes.”) The inspiration for this exchange was Rove appearing on Fox News this morning to make the obvious-to-the-point-of-being prosaic point that one only gets so many flubs as a candidate before people start to wonder. True enough, and it’d be no less true or obvious if Rove hadn’t made it. But because he did, Cain suddenly has a high-profile foil he can use to motivate grassroots conservatives to stick with him through the recent rough patch. He couldn’t have asked for a better one, either: Thanks to his status as a consummate Beltway insider, his Bush-ian big-spending “compassionate conservatism” pedigree, his scrapes with Palin and Christine O’Donnell, and his reputation as the ultimate Machiavellian strategist, Rove’s become almost as much of a Snidely Whiplash character among tea partiers as he was among the left for eight years. Cain’s working straight off of the Palin playbook here by wearing the scorn of the ultimate establishment Republican/RINO as a badge of authenticity. It’s probably his best shot at consolidating his support right now, unless and until he starts using some of his recent fundraising windfall to build a real organization in early primary states. Which … still hasn’t happened yet.

Two exit questions. One: In the excerpt shown below, Cain says he was distracted during Wolf Blitzer’s question about Gilad Shalit and didn’t instantly make the connection that Blitzer was proposing trading terrorists at Gitmo for an American POW. Okay, but in that case, what sort of prisoners did he think Blitzer had in mind? Netanyahu did, of course, swap terrorists for Shalit. Was Cain thinking of common federal convicts instead? Why would Al Qaeda want any of those? Two: Which dastardly scheming RINO said the following today of Cain’s performance lately?

But the [Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan] shtick is a glimpse of the greater truth – that there are whole areas of public policy in which he simply has no interest. None. You ask him a question and from the recesses of his mind swim up half-recalled phrases from some panel discussion he caught once long ago, and he hopes he grabs the conservative line (“I’m proud to stand by Israel”, “we don’t negotiate with terrorists”, “life begins at conception”, whatever) but just as often he doesn’t (with Gretchen Carlson this morning: “No, abortion should not be a part of the political discussion”).

His fans say he’s being set up with “Gotcha” questions. But these aren’t the Hoogivsastans way out on the fringe of the public policy map. They’re the first stops on the central thruway of American politics, and have been for most of Cain’s adult life. And it’s becoming harder to avoid the obvious truth that he hasn’t given them a moment’s thought.

It would be nice to have a candidate with a sunny demeanor who gets the urgency and understands the way fiscal insolvency, foreign affairs and social policy interact. But maybe from a talent pool of 200 million or so that’s an unreasonable expectation.

Hint: Not Karl Rove!