...and when you're down, you're down. And when you're only halfway up, you're a doomed Republican presidential candidate.
With apologies to the Noble Duke of York, the presidential aspirations of a group of Republican men and women have not been all that good this year.
On Saturday, Herman Cain will have somehow been able to stretch into four days what should have been decided in one -- whether he intends to remain in the Republican race. (My guess -- he's gone. Regardless, he's toast.)
But Cain's rapid rise and equally fast descent has been a familiar script in 2011.
First, Donald Trump -- who never announced he was a candidate! -- raced to the head of the pack. The nation can be thankful that commonsense soon developed. Trump's rump was booted and he never entered the race.
Next, it was Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, who used her Tea Party affiliation and Midwest roots to be the first announced candidate to challenge former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for GOP supremacy. However, she soon became exposed as an intellectual lightweight. She's still in race, but she's nothing more than a second-tier candidate.
Then there was Texas governor Rick Perry. His rock-solid conservative credentials and Christian faith pushed him to the top of the heap. And then he had the "oops" moment. He, like Bachmann, finds himself now among the second tier with almost no chance of getting his campaign jump started.
Perry's fall provided Cain the opportunity he needed to make a move. He rode an unconventional and at times disjointed campaign to the top. And then came the sexual harassment allegations. Cain perhaps could have survived those, but once another woman stepped forward to say she had had a 13-year affair with him, he was done.
The latest candidate on the move (in the right direction) is Newt Gingrich. He has a chance to have the staying power that his rivals haven't for two reasons.
First, there aren't many conservatives left for the right wing of the Republican Party to rally around. (Rick Santorum? Uh, no.) Secondly, Gingrich already had a national name and reputation. Third, the calendar is reminding Republicans that they need to get their act together -- the Iowa caucuses are in one month.
Four men have been constants in this campaign -- Romney (at the top), Ron Paul (fervently backed by a small portion of the party), former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (at the rear) and Santorum (ditto).
As it stands now, Romney, Gingrich and Paul are likely to be the final three standing. But with Paul having almost no chance of getting the nomination, Romney and Gingrich are likely to be the final choices for Republicans.
If Gingrich mimics Trump, Bachmann, Perry and Cain, then Romney could have the nomination secured well before Super Tuesday. But if Gingrich remains viable, then the choice is clear. Will Republicans nominate:
-a clean as a whistle, married (only once), pro-business, cool to social issues Mormon, or
-a solid conservative who has been married three times and wants to slice the size of government.
No chance that the voters can fail to see those differences.