Cain's Absence Could Hurt Romney

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Herman Cain's plans to "reassess" his run for the 2012 Republican presidential nominationlikely signal the death knell for his campaign but the news may also be to the detriment of frontrunner Mitt Romney.

The former Massachusetts governor has thrived off division among the eight other GOP opponents, who have split up the conservative base, or "anti-Romney" vote.
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"People conservatives will start realizing that a divided non-Romney camp means a Romney victory," Tim Callanan, Berkeley County, S.C. Republican Party chairman, said. "I would imagine you'll start seeing folks start to jell around one or two candidates."

With the possibility of Cain dropping out before the end of the week, his support will have to shift elsewhere. And Cain supporters won't necessarily look in Romney's direction.

Social conservatives and conservative Christians in GOP circles are not likely to support Romney as he has been accused of flip-flopping on abortion and same-sex marriage. It also goes without saying that Romney doesn't have many Tea Party supporters as the former Bain Capital CEO -- more than familiar with Wall Street -- expressed his support of TARP at the time of the 2008 financial bailout.

"Romney, in my view, has always had a believability problem among conservatives," Jim Denton, Nevada Republican political consultant, said. "I think that his past positions are a real problem among conservatives, and I think that the beneficiary of Cain's conservative message is going to be someone who has a track record as a conservative."

So where can true conservatives turn?

For starters, they likely want to support a candidate who has a fighting chance. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum can claim palpable conservative records, but they're short on money and national recognition. Ron Paul is another one to consider, but Paul won't receive massive traditional conservative support until he is willing to reconsider -- in their minds -- some of his hardline views. Forget Jon Huntsman. The former Utah governor looks like a Democrat to much of the GOP base.

That leaves Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry as potential beneficiaries.

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