Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cain in the crosshairs

New allegations that Herman Cain was linked to sexual harassment charges in the 1990's are bound to dominate GOP presidential campaign news Monday and offer a real test for the front-running candidate.

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 politico.com 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.

More coverage
POLITICO: Exclusive: 2 women accused Herman Cain of inappropriate behavior

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.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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