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The Mark Block Rule

When you repeatedly draw negative attention to your candidate through misstatements, a fumbled crisis response, a potential tax problem of your own making and a goofy web ad, it's time to move on.

Call it the Mark Block Rule.

Block is the chief of staff for Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who has struggled in the face of repeated sexual harassment claims from women. Cain denies the charges. But from the get-go, the campaign fumbled its response, despite having 10 days to prepare a strategy and message. The problems continued this evening, courtesy of Block when he appeared on Sean Hannity's show. In just one sentence Block attacked Politico (which broke the first batch of harassment claims) and one of the accusers who received a payout in 1999, Karen Kraushaar. 

"Her son works at Politico," Block said in the first few minutes of the show, indicating it was an important point.

Hannity: "You've confirmed that now?"

Block: "We've confirmed that he does indeed work at Politico and that's his mother, yes."

False, says Politico.

A former employee, Josh Kraushaar, now works at Hotline. But he says he's not related to Karen Kraushaar. Also, Block hasn't pointed out anything false about the original Politico piece, which accurately reported that two women in 1999 accused Cain of harassment at the National Restaurant Association.

Last week, Block appeared on television and accused Republican Rick Perry's campaign for pushing the reports. Block specifically called out consultant Curt Anderson, and said that the current Perry adviser was told of the allegations in 2004 when Anderson served as an adviser to Cain's Georgia Senate race.

Two problems with that: Anderson said it isn't true (and he was never told), and Block's statement contradicted Cain who said just the day before that he could remember nothing of the 1999 sex-harassment claim.

The flailing about doesn't surprise Florida Republican operative Chuck Winn, a one-time Cain supporter and founder of the Stolen Valor veterans group that exposes candidates who embellish their military records.

"I began having serious misgivings about the lack of standards and integrity on Herman’s campaign after I attended a 23 Oct meeting presided over by Mark Block and Jamie Brazil in Tampa," Winn said in an email. "Block began by letting us know how he engineered Nixon’s 72 landslide (quite a feat since he was only 16) and then uttered some truly magnificent and marvelous hokum about a 'Sun Tzu-based stealth strategy with an army of thousands,' attempting to mask the absence of any coherent strategy."

Then there's the matter of potential lawbreaking. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel uncovered documents showing that a Block-run nonprofit, Prosperity USA, might have loaned about $40,000 to the political campaign he runs, Friends of Herman Cain, for travel and other campaign expenses. That could violate federal election regulations and tax laws.

"I just don't see how they can justify this," a GOP elections expert told the paper. "It's a total mess."

And where there's smoke, well, there's smoking.

Usually, campaign ads don't feature consultants. But this one did in October in a web ad that featured Block talking about Cain as a uniter (this was before the harassment allegations and his blaming of Perry and the media for it all). At the end, Block lit up a cigarette. Cain supporters loved it. Everyone else seemed puzzled. The spot was aptly spoofed in a web ad produced by the daughters of Republican Jon Huntsman (who campaign brought us the John Weaver Rule).

"We've run a campaign like nobody's ever seen," Block said in the ad. "But then, America's never seen a candidate like Herman Cain."

Or a consultant like Block for that matter.