Romney: Allegations against Cain must be "addressed seriously"

Was it wise for Mitt Romney to offer any opinion on Herman Cain’s campaign crisis? Romney tells George Stephanopoulos in an interview today that he finds the allegations “serious” and particularly disturbing,” although Romney declines to answer whether they are disqualifying if true. All he says in that regard is that Cain has to address the allegations directly:

Mitt Romney today for the first time characterized sexual harassment allegations facing fellow GOP candidate Herman Cain as “particularly disturbing.”

“These are serious allegations, George,” said Romney in an exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos that aired on ABC News and Yahoo. ”And they’re going to have to be addressed seriously. I don’t have any counsel for Herman Cain or for his campaign, they have to take their own counsel on this.”

“Any time there is an accuser that comes forward with charges of this nature you recognize this is a very serious matter and it should be taken seriously,” said Romney.

There is a strategic concept that argues against getting in the way of an opponent’s collapse, and for good reason. Let’s say Cain’s campaign survives these allegations and goes on to contend in Iowa. Will Romney’s commentary help him convince Republican voters to peel away from Cain? Almost certainly not; he’ll be seen as opportunist, and his comments an unnecessary shot while Cain was trying to defend himself. If the allegations end up sinking Cain, it won’t be because Romney spoke out, either, and it makes Romney less likely to convince former Cain supporters to support Romney instead. Granted, that’s not a terribly likely outcome, but that’s what Romney is supposedly campaigning to achieve, right?

Sometimes the best move one can make is to stay out of an argument, especially when one has no direct connection to the issue involved. All Romney needed to say here was, “I’m concentrating on my own campaign, and you should direct those questions to Mr. Cain.” Or to paraphrase one elder statesman a few years back, Romney missed a good opportunity to shut up.