Past allegations haunt Herman Cain

By now you’ve seen or heard about the sexual harassment story that Politico dropped last night on Herman Cain. The allegations are that while he was running the National Restaurant Association (NRA), Cain made unwanted sexual advances towards two women, who later monetarily settled with the organization.

Though Cain’s supporters are crying foul at the Politico story and blaming the media. But Politico certainly seemed to have carefully proceeded with the story, even tipping the campaign off at least a week in advance. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, and that’s one reason why the initial fumbling responses from Cain’s campaign team are so unacceptable. And blaming the media, as Philip Klein wrote this morning, just isn’t going to work in the long run.

What does the story mean? It’s hard to say right now. The candidate himself seems to be handling the issue well today. Yesterday, however, Cain handled it poorly when he didn’t deny the accusation four times and then responded to the reporter, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”

But this does matter, and the most glaring reason is that the response of the campaign. This should be a point of concern for Republican voters. Seriously, they knew about it days in advance and the best they could come up with was “story doesn’t hold any weight” and not directly addressing the concern, which is finally what they’re doing today; 12 hours after the story hit.

And the tenacity of the campaign is coming into question as Cain is limiting himself in the number of appearances to avoid gaffes. This story shows that saying dumb things on the campaign trail, which Cain has done, won’t save him from scrutiny. And Jim Geraghty points out that it won’t get easier for him if he does win the nomination and moves into the general election.

And unless the women in question come forward to offer their sides of the story or specifics are made known by the NRA, this isn’t going to derail Cain in and of itself. And even if a settlement was paid, it doesn’t necessarily mean Cain did anything wrong. The NRA may have made a business decision to settle rather be exposed to a jury deciding on the lawsuits.

Contrary to what Michael Brendan Dougherty and Zeke Miller wrote this morning at Business Insider, Cain’s bid isn’t over. And I write that as someone that has been critical of Cain’s half-baked policy proposals and dishonestly on TARP and other issues. Cain can stil recover, but questions will remain about his campaign organization from this.

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