Yikes: Fourth Republican senator says he won't vote for Herman Cain for Fed, sinking nomination

It takes an awfully dubious nomination to rile up a bunch as obedient as the Senate GOP to the point where they’re not only willing to bork a Trump pick but to bork him before he’s even been formally nominated.

I did not think they had it in ’em.

Cain’s loss is *probably* Stephen Moore’s gain, though. It’s almost unimaginable that Republicans would embarrass Trump twice by rejecting both of his Fed nominees.

North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer said he wouldn’t back Cain if President Donald Trump nominates him to the Fed and hopes the president will make another choice.

“If I had to vote today, I couldn’t vote for Herman Cain,” said Cramer, a Trump ally. “The allegations that drove him from the presidential race are just so obviously serious. I’m not talking about his position on interest rates or anything like that, but the sexual harassment stuff. Until it’s better explained I couldn’t vote for him.”…

Cramer joins GOP senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Cory Gardner of Colorado in expressing opposition to a Cain nomination, which would leave him with just 49 potential Republican votes. Senate GOP leaders, including Republican Whip John Thune, have already said they don’t anticipate Cain could get a single Democratic to support his confirmation.

Cramer’s opposition is a surprise. Gardner’s made sense because he’s facing a tight race in a Hillary state next fall and already weathered one #MeToo storm in supporting Brett Kavanaugh. He didn’t want to endure another. Murkowkski’s made sense because she’s a centrist and feels invincible in Alaska. If she didn’t feel enough pressure back home to support Kavanaugh, she wasn’t going to feel it over Cain. Romney’s made sense because … he’s Romney. He truly is invincible in his home state and he seems to be honestly worried about Trump’s attempt to place cronies on the Fed board.

But Cramer is the newly elected senator from deep red North Dakota. He won’t face voters again until 2024. He has no reason to get out in front on borking Cain. So why’d he do it? One possibility is that he’s thinking back to his diciest moment from the last campaign and already looking to defuse it ahead of his next run. Remember that?

Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota has repeatedly made headlines this year in his race against Senator Heidi Heitkamp because of off-the-cuff comments that range from inflammatory to indelicate. But his latest provocation on sexual misconduct sparked a furious and tearful rejoinder from Ms. Heitkamp on Sunday, one day after she voted to oppose the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh…

Invoking his wife, daughters, mother and mother-in-law, Mr. Cramer said: “They cannot understand this movement toward victimization. They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great-grandparents were tough.”

Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign tried to make hay of that, accusing Cramer of believing that victims of sexual assault aren’t “tough” or that they somehow haven’t been truly victimized. That produced a nervous moment for the GOP, until Team Heitkamp gift-wrapped a much bigger #MeToo screw-up of their own that helped Cramer to an easy victory. Maybe Cramer feels genuinely bad about how #MeToo victims might have received his comments or maybe he’s anticipating renewed attacks along Heitkamp’s line next time. Whatever the reason, it’s noteworthy that he made a point of identifying the sexual harassment allegations against Cain as the key to his opposition. Most other Republicans have cited cronyism as their chief concern about him.

There’s another possibility. Mitch McConnell obviously didn’t want Cain’s nomination to move forward, knowing how Democrats would turn it into a circus and expecting that the nomination would fail in the end anyway. One of Cain’s accusers from 2012 is already talking to the media again. It’d be silly to sustain foreseeable political damage to no good end, but the same was true of the shutdown in December and that didn’t stop Trump from moving forward with that. So maybe McConnell decided that a fourth GOP senator needed to speak up right now, before this went any further, to dissuade Trump from proceeding with nominating Cain. Naturally in searching for that senator he’d be looking for someone who’d face no political trouble for opposing the nominee — someone from a very red state, say, where Trumpy populists maybe aren’t as active in primaries as they are elsewhere, and who won’t need to worry about reelection for a long time. And if that person happened to be a very junior senator who’d instinctively think twice about crossing the majority leader, so much the better.

Maybe McConnell knocked on Cramer’s door and said, “Kevin, I need a favor.” How could Cramer say no?

Trump didn’t sound optimistic yesterday when asked about Cain, saying that Cain himself “will make that determination” as to whether to continue with this process. One other thing that occurs to me is that McConnell and other Republicans might have wanted to kill Cain’s chances quickly in order to show Trump that nominees whom he’s plucked from right-wing media will be greeted skeptically. If Cain had sailed through, it’s a cinch that Trump would have eventually tried to put Judge Jeanine on the federal bench or at the DOJ or wherever. McConnell’s trying to draw a line to discourage Trump from political “fan service” for his base, to borrow a term.

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