Republican US presidential contender Herman Cain plowed ahead on Wednesday amid mounting allegations of sexual misconduct, including an extramarital affair. However, he acknowledged the toll of the allegations was rising and said he would decide by next week whether to drop out of the Republican race after talking in person to his wife.
Cain spent a month battling several sexual harassment accusations, which took a toll on both his standing in polls and, supporters say, his fundraising.
The latest furor came on Monday when businesswoman Ginger White, 46, said she and Cain had maintained a consensual sexual relationship spanning more than a decade and ending this year before he became a candidate.
In an interview with Fox News, Cain said the controversy had taken an “emotional toll” on his wife and that he would exit the race if the price of continuing proved too high.
“I’ve got to think about my family first, especially my wife,” Cain said. “This is why we are reassessing.”
Prominent conservatives who rushed to his defense when the first allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior surfaced were all but silent after the affair accusation. The turmoil comes just five weeks before the first votes are cast in the state-by-state march to the nomination.
Former US House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich has been the beneficiary — in polls, at least — of Cain’s slide in the month since it was disclosed that the National Restaurant Association paid settlements to two women who claimed Cain sexually harassed them while he was president of the organization. A third woman said that Cain made inappropriate sexual advances, but that she didn’t file a complaint. A fourth woman also stepped forward to accuse Cain of groping her in a car in 1997.
Cain said on Wednesday that he would exit the race if the latest allegations proved too damaging and he would make a decision by the middle of next week at the latest. He has denied all wrongdoing.
He said that he had talked to his wife, Gloria Cain, by phone, but that campaigning had prevented him from sitting down with her and their family to discuss the allegations. He said he would do that today.
For now the campaign is continuing. Aides to the ex-restaurant executive, lobbyist and motivational speaker were moving ahead with plans for events around the country and prepared to launch a fresh round of TV ads in Iowa, where the first state contest on the road to the nomination will be held on Jan. 3.
Cain, on a one-day bus tour of Ohio, insisted he was seeing “a groundswell of positive support” after the latest allegation threatening his campaign. Still, he acknowledged: “We are reassessing and we are re-evaluating,’’ in light of the latest accuser’s account, which followed accusations of sexual harassment by other women in recent weeks.
Among political operatives, however, the perception was setting in that Cain’s troubles were causing irreparable harm to his bid.
Dan McLagan, a veteran Republican strategist, said: “Cain is like a zombie at this point: He’s dead but he does not appear to have noticed and has kept on walking. His support is all moving to Gingrich and, at some point, he’s going to look back and see that he is grand marshal of a one-man parade.”