There’s no doubt about it: this is Herman Cain’s most important moment of the presidential race.
Reports of “sexually suggestive behavior” on Cain’s part during his years as president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990′s have the potential to derail his hopes of winning the Republican nomination.
As one top Republican strategist told the Note, “We’re about to find out if Herman Cain and his staff are capable of running for President.”
The most important question is how he responds to the allegations today. Cain happens to be in Washington, DC on Monday for two major speeches — one at the American Enterprise Institute and the other at the National Press Club. At both events Cain is certain to meet a political press corps hungry for answers.
The story, which was broken by Politico, notes that “at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain.” http://politi.co/v0borN
Cain’s campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon called the report “thinly sourced” and dismissed it as an “unsubstantiated personal” attack. http://abcn.ws/su2Nji
“Since Washington establishment critics haven’t had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain’s ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can,” Gordon said in a stamen last night. “Sadly, we’ve seen this movie played out before — a prominent Conservative targeted by liberals simply because they disagree with his politics.”
But, Cain is going to have to do a lot better than that or the questions are going to continue to dog him. He could put the issue to rest today or make all of this much worse.
That’s why it’s unclear whether we’ll see the end of the story, or the beginning of the end for the Cain campaign. Judging by the response to the reports last night, it appears that conservatives are not ready to abandon him. In fact, there’s a good possibility it makes them more committed to protecting him from what they see as a mainstream media “slash and burn.” And if no women come forward publicly, how much shelf life does this story really have?
It’s also a good time to recall Cain’s own prediction from an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Byron York published in May.
“They’re going to come after me more viciously than they would a white candidate,” he said. “To use Clarence Thomas as an example, I’m ready for the same high-tech lynching that he went through — for the good of this country.” http://bit.ly/maUf8M
DAMAGE CONTROL? Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon issues a strange non-denial denial of the allegations in an appearance last night on Geraldo Rivera’s Fox News show (h/t Mediate):
GERALDO: ”Are you denying there was a cash settlement to two female employees of the National Restaurant Association — yes or no?”
GORDON: “You would have to get that from the National Restaurant Association.
GERALDO: “These are serious allegations … You gotta give us a little more substance.” http://bit.ly/sQoF3Y
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX: We’re not sure whether this is the Cain campaign’s idea of damage control either: Last night, hours after Politico’s story popped online, Team Cain circulated a press release with the subject line: “Weekend Straw Polls Show Herman Cain on Top.” The gist: “Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain continues his straw poll winning streak with victories in Alabama and South Carolina over the weekend. Cain led the Republican field in the West Alabama straw poll with 50.7% of the votes and 24.5% of the votes in the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women convention straw poll held in Greenville, SC.”
MEANWHILE IN IOWA. This week could have been so different for Cain, who did find himself ay the top of a new Des Moines Register primary poll released on Saturday night. The poll put Cain just ahead of Mitt Romney, 23 percent to 22 percent. “My message is connecting,” Cain said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “And people are connecting with me and the specific solutions I’m putting on the table.” http://abcn.ws/rQPm5w
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Amy Walter and Jonathan Karl interview U.S. Senate Candidate Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Also on the program, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc
“THIS WEEK” REPLAY: MICHELE BACHMANN: ‘WE’RE NOT WORRIED.’ Despite slipping in state and national polls, GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann says her campaign can still be revived, with just over two months before voting in the Iowa caucus. “I’m doing exactly what I need to do in Iowa. I’m here, all across the state, meeting with people multiple times every day,” Bachmann told “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “And so it’s amazing what a difference several weeks can make in the course of a presidential campaign.” The latest Des Moines Register poll released Sunday shows Herman Cain and Mitt Romney leading the pack in Iowa, at 23 percent and 22 percent respectively, with Bachmann falling to a distant fourth place at 8 percent, followed by Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich at 7 percent each. “We’re not worried about the day-to-day snapshots. What we’re focused on are the primary dates,” Bachmann said in response to the poll results. “So we’re doing the fundamentals…We’re focusing on greeting people, meeting with them, and getting our positive message, which is pro-growth and job creation.” (h/t ABC News’ Imtiyaz Delawala) http://abcn.ws/tw1Qcf
LIBERTARIAN PARTY TO RON PAUL: THE WATER’S FINE. “Rep. Ron Paul may not win the Republican nomination for president, but the prospect of him running as a third party candidate in the general election is not off the table, he says,” according to ABC News’ Jason Volack. Paul, long a favorite of the Libertarian Party, is drawing enthusiastic support from its leaders, who are openly pushing him to consider a third party run for the White House. ‘Absolutely, that would be fabulous,’ said Jim Lesczynski, media relations director for the Manhattan Libertarian Party. Lesczynski says his party agrees with Paul on most of the major issues, calling him an ‘ideal candidate.’ He added that Paul will do better than he did four years ago, but ultimately thinks he will fail in his bid to gain the Republican nomination.” http://abcn.ws/vdqEjv
RICK PERRY RELEASES NEW TV AD. A dispatch from ABC’s Arlette Saenz: Texas Gov. Rick Perry will release his second television ad in Iowa Monday, in which he says he’s “a doer, not talker.” ”If you’re looking for a slick politician or a guy with great teleprompter skills, we already have that. He’s destroying our economy. I’m a doer not a talker,” Perry says in the 30-second ad, wearing a blue button-down shirt with no tie. “In Texas, we created 40 percent of the new jobs in the entire country since June of 2009 and we cut a record $15 billion from our state budget,” he says. “And they say we can’t do that in Washington. Well, they’re wrong. They need to go. I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.” The details of the ad were first reported by the New York Times. It comes on the heels of Perry’s first ad, released Wednesday, which also touted his record creating jobs in Texas. http://abcn.ws/uffqcg
NOTED: The New York Time’s John Harwood takes a closer look at the 2012 ad race: “The 2012 season of “Race for the White House” is now opening on American video screens. Even as it appears on new devices like tablets and cellphones, the quadrennial series largely features stock characters. Heroes include Humble Statesman, Family Man and Fighter; villains include Stumblebum, Shifty-Eyed Schemer and Flip-Flopping Weasel. Same actors, different roles depending on which campaign makes the ad. The familiar 30-second plotlines endure from one election to the next. ‘The winning narrative gets rewritten a million times,’ said Mike Murphy, a Republican consultant. ‘Love of the easy cliché is alive and well in the political advertising business.’” http://nyti.ms/rHIS0a
HUNTSMAN BANKS ON NEW HAMPSHIRE. “Kathy DePasquale says she hasn’t ruled out voting a second time for President Barack Obama. Yet first the New Hampshire independent plans to pull a lever in the nation’s premier primary contest for Jon Huntsman Jr., the Republican she sees as the clearest-headed alternative,” Bloomberg’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes. “Voters like her are drawn to Huntsman campaign events in New Hampshire, where Democrats disenchanted with Obama mingle with fiscally conservative independents dismayed with other Republican options. Statewide polls show Huntsman — who barely registers in national Republican primary surveys and lags in polling here — is best-liked and draws his strongest support among those who identify themselves as Democrats, followed by independents and those who claim no loyalty to either party. That may seem a dubious distinction in a Republican race. Still, in New Hampshire, where voters prize their influence in presidential races and those who aren’t registered with either party can choose which primary to participate in right before they cast a ballot, courting the political center may be a winning strategy.” http://bloom.bg/vdhxTB
OBAMA TO MAKE ECONOMIC PITCH TO G20. “President Obama, who has struggled to advance his vision for economic renewal at home, will take his pitch overseas this week to an audience of world leaders who could prove equally skeptical of his message at a time of global anxiety,” reports the Washington Post’s David Nakamura. “Obama is scheduled to depart Washington late Wednesday for a two-day trip to Cannes, France, where the heads of the world’s 20 largest economies will gather for the Group of 20 summit. Organizers said the meetings will focus on how to contain Europe’s debt crisis while also trying to forge consensus on a path to stimulating worldwide economic growth, even as many countries, including the United States, wrestle with painful budget cuts. The trip, the first for Obama outside the United States since he attended a smaller summit in France in the spring, could provide a crucial test of whether his political problems at home have compromised his influence abroad.” http://wapo.st/tMM2yH
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