*It’s incredibly hard to make heads or tails out of the Herman Cain story. You can consider it a phenomenon, a surprise, a shock or a car wreck – but it’s not boring, we’ll give you that.

Why has he connected? The easiest answer is to look at his competition. Good lord. The Clippers usually field a better lineup (and there’s certainly no Blake Griffin here). Romney’s the very definition of an empty suit. Perry’s just bizarre. Michelle Bachmann’s got those crazy eyes – she always seems like she’s one step away from turning into a bat. Gingrich has brains but not the charm; he might be the single most unlikable person in American politics (and that’s saying a lot). Paul’s on the fringe. Santorum’s a bland weirdo, Huntsman’s just bland. Gary Johnson (who?) is as unimpressive as his name.

Yet, calling Cain just the freshest apple in a bad lot diminishes what he’s been able to do. He’s developed a simple message and stayed on it, and (in general) stayed above the fray and let the ostensible frontrunners Perry and Romney gnaw away at each other. He’s been solid and on-point in just about every debate. He’s sold his 9-9-9 plan – simple, if nothing else – to the public like the businessman he is.

This is his first big scandal, and it’s a doozy.

The charges alone are enough to sink the campaign, and his response has been shaky at best (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMQj9iojzdU). Having the subject of one of the weirdest campaign ads of all time (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhm-22Q0PuM) out on point to defend Cain? Probably not the best idea. We’ll see if he can keep his momentum up – but given his response to this tumult, chances don’t look good.