Cain in the crosshairs

Like the freak snow and ice storm that hit much of the northeast over the weekend, causing widespread power outages, Heman Cain also got hit with a storm that could cause him to lose power.

The next few days will prove critical to Cain's GOP presidential candidacy after a report citing sourced allegations that Cain was twice accused of sexual harassment while running the National Restaurant Association during the 1990's.

The report broke Sunday, just one day after a Des Moines Register published a poll showing Cain statistically tied with Mitt Romney in Iowa, a key early Republican test.

How Cain responds to the politico report sets the scene for either a bust or a boom for his campaign.

So far, it doesn't look good.

The report includes an imbedded video showing Cain outside a CBS News Washington TV studio Sunday declining to directly address the allegations and instead asking a reporter, "Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?"

Cain was scheduled for multiple public appearances in D.C. on Monday, including an address at a National Press Club luncheon.

Cain's campaign has denied the veracity of the politico report but with a qualification. In a story by the Associated Press, Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon called the charges "baseless," but added, "To my knowledge, this is not an accurate story."

That won't cut it.

Cain needs to directly address the issue, not with questions but with answers. How he does so will determine the viability of his campaign going forward.

It must be said that Cain to date has persisted through periods when he was regarded as an oddity at best, a wacko at worst, and a game-changer who forced a national discussion of tax policy with his (now amended) 9-9-9 plan.

Such persistence in the glare of the national political spotlight is rare, especially in a year Republicans can't seem to decide who they like from week to week.

Well this week promises to offer Cain's toughest test yet. The next GOP debate is Nov. 9 in Rochester, Mich. If Cain is still standing by then, still at or near the top in polls, he will have weathered this storm. If not, his political power cannot be restored.