During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.
The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.
It has always been clear that Herman Cain could not remain on top of the Republican leaderboard. He has only a skeleton campaign organization and no ground game in any early primary state. Is the revelation that he was the target of sexual impropriety accusations from two women while he was head of the National Restaurant Association a “for whom the bell tolls” moment for Cain? Not necessarily. Cain can always say it was a misunderstanding, and his followers may buy it. Rush certainly has. “Inappropriate behavior” is a murky phrase that covers a lot of ground, and different people can perceive it in different ways. The possible reactions of his followers range from mutiny to blind loyalty. Just as important is how Cain responds: whether it is with anger or with dignity. So far he has changed his story several times on Day 1. Not a good sign.
The problem for Republicans is that Cain is the only candidate who is likeable. There is a little of “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” in him, the sincere amateur with the simple message that has a broad appeal. Nobody else had that magic working for him.
Is this the fabled “Perry luck” reasserting itself? Much depends upon how Cain reacts. (So far, not so good. Asking reporters if they have ever been accused of sexual harassment is not a winning strategy.) There is no reason to assume that Perry would be the principal beneficiary of a Cain collapse, if there is one. A good case could be made for Romney (a safe port in the storm), Gingrich (the smartest), or Perry (the most conservative and the most money), perhaps even for Ron Paul, who has a little bit of Jimmy Stewart in him.
But the beneficiary could also be Herman Cain, if he handles himself well, and if there are no more revelations. It’s way too early to write him off. But he is going to have to settle on a story and stick with it. That hasn’t happened so far.
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