In a way, I can’t blame Rick Perry or Herman Cain for melting down a little bit this week.  I mean, the news that  Newt Gingrich has passed them both in the polls (after being left for electorally dead five months ago) blows my mind, and I’m not one of the guys he’s beating.

But from the standpoint of an ordinary, sane person — that is, apparently, someone who is not a prospective Republican voter — Perry and Cain’s contortions have been kind of amazing to watch.

As you’ve perhaps already heard, Cain today chose to tackle head-on the questions raised by his obvious brain freeze when asked about Libya earlier this week (see the video above: “OK… Libya… President Obama… supported the uprising, correct?”).  Unfortunately, the results suggest that Cain’s damage-control strategies haven’t improved since the previous weeks’ allegations of sexual harassment:

“Do I agree with siding with the opposition? Do I agree with saying that Qadhafi should go? Do I agree that they now have a country where you’ve got Taliban and Al Qaeda that’s going to be part of the government?” Cain asked reporters, rhetorically. “Do I agree with not knowing the government was going to — which part was he asking me about? I was trying to get him to be specific and he wouldn’t be specific.”

Believe it or not, this (with the jaw-dropping assertion about the Taliban of Afghanistan joining a government 3,000 miles away in Libya) wasn’t the meandering statement Cain was trying to clarify… it was the supposed clarification.   (You gotta figure someone on the Cain team won a private bet with someone else over that one.)

Meanwhile, Rick Perry, the former front-runner who fell behind Cain before Gingrich passed them both, decided the only way to regain the spotlight and shore up his dying fundraising was to pander even more blatantly to the anti-intellectualism and latent racism of the teabagger contingent.

I wrote here six months ago that chasing the GOP presidential nomination means “advertising your unlimited affection for the fiercest lunacies of your party’s base (a group with more collective resentments than common sense) while trying to simultaneously hide it from any sane voters who may be watching.” Obviously, Perry’s decided that he’s reached a point where the latter part of that sentence can’t be bothered with any longer.

But you know what the best part is?  The actual votes don’t even start being cast for another month and a half!  So the kind of pressure and desperation that brought about moments like the “Dean scream” haven’t even begun to be felt by these jokers yet.

Kind of frightening to wonder how much lower they can go, isn’t it?