My first thought when I read that Herman Cain was “reassessing” his campaign after being accused of sexual misconduct for the three or four hundredth time was that maybe he’s finally starting to realize what most sane people realized months ago: That he’s a fringe candidate, a novelty act whose entire campaign consists of a noun, a gaffe, and 9-9-9.

But the funny thing about this cycle’s GOP candidates is that they’re all fringe candidates in one way or another.  Some are fringe candidates because they are obviously nuts (hello, Michele Bachmann!), some because they’re thoroughly unlikable and/or lousy campaigners (Gingrich, Santorum), and some because they make Dubya look like the captain of the debate team (I think you can guess).

And then there’s Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney.  For them, the problem is that when the fringe becomes the party’s mainstream, what was once the mainstream becomes the party’s fringe.  They’re the only two candidates sane enough to short-circuit Obama’s “I may suck, but least I won’t fly the country into the sun!” campaign strategy, but the Republican base will never embrace them for that very same reason.

Aside from the issue of their religion, which Digby believes is bigger than anyone will admit, Huntsman is to the left of Obama on the financial industry, and Romney is the most notorious flip-flopper since his political doppelganger, John Kerry.  But worse yet, said flip-floppery is a direct result of comparatively (I repeat: comparatively) moderate views, which he must reconcile with his political need to pander to the teabaggers and dittoheads he needs for the nomination.

Poor Mitt Romney.  He may be a weird, awkward vulture capitalist and dog abuser, but he’s not visibly scary or crazy, and he’s not so difficult to picture as a major party presidential nominee.  Those are some pretty tough disadvantages to overcome, but it’s not impossible.  Especially if all the other fringe candidates implode.