Cain allegations consume much of this week’s political news cycle

Here and Now

Story from Here & Now. Listen to the above audio for a complete report.

Herman Cain’s consumed this week’s news cycle — at least when it comes the upcoming Republican presidential primaries.

On Sunday, Politico revealed he’d been accused by two women of sexual harassment, and both of those women were paid to leave the National Restaurant Association. Then it came out there was a third woman who leveled accusations.

But, through that, Cain continues to surge in the polls. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 70 percent of respondents said the reports of sexual harassment don’t matter when picking a candidate.

In fact, the poll found Cain had support from 23 percent of those polled, good enough to put him neck-and-neck with frontrunner Mitt Romney at 24 percent.

“It seems if you’re running in a Republican primary and there’s a perception among a lot of primary voters that the media’s out to get you, it’s just good for you,” Washington Post political correspondent Peter Wallsten said.

Wallsten said the poll revealed a lot of voters don’t believe the allegations — and no women have come forward publicly — and many others simply think it’s not serious.

But it’s not all roses for Cain. About 37 percent of those Republicans polled said it was serious. He’s also raising eyebrows among Republican-leaning independents and among women.

“Maybe it’s not hurting him at this point, but it could hurt him down the line,” Wallsten said. “If he gets the nomination, it’s not going to be good at that time.”

Jay Newton Small, politics correspondent for Time magazine, however, said there’s no way Cain can win the nomination.

“Herman Cain already had a problem with women in Iowa,” she explained.

He doesn’t have much infrastructure, staff or offices, in Iowa, she explained. And those are necessities for candidates who want to win in those two early elections states. Votes in Iowa and New Hampshire are slated for the first half of January.

All the attention on Cain and the allegations of sexual harassment have taken the focus off the race in general and off of the other candidates in particular.

“It’s sucking the oxygen out of the race. There’s really no discussion of substantive issuesm,” Small said.

But it has been a bit of a week for Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Romney is facing renewed criticism for changing his views on gay marriage and Perry is facing questions about a speech he gave in New Hampshire that some have said “wasn’t presidential.”

“What sets Romney apart from every politician who flip-flops,” Wallsten said, “is he did actually take this assertive and agressive course of meeting with liberal activists and did say ‘I’m going to rise nationally in the party. You should stick with me because I’m going to be a good voice for you.’ “

As for Perry’s speech, in which the Texas governor compared New Hampshire’s motto, Live Free or Die, to the words Texans uttered at the Alamo, victory or death, Newton Small said it was just bizarre.

“My favorite moment was when they gave him a bottle of maple syrup and he turned it upside down,” she said. “It was like he was looking at a lava lamp.”


Here and Now” is an essential midday news magazine for those who want the latest news and expanded conversation on today’s hot-button topics.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.