ATLANTA – Herman Cain told aides Tuesday he is assessing whether the latest allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against him “create too much of a cloud” for his Republican presidential candidacy to go forward.
Acknowledging the “firestorm” arising from an accusation of infidelity, Cain only committed to keeping his campaign schedule for the next several days, in a conference call with his senior staff.
“If a decision is made, different than to plow ahead, you all will be the first to know,” he said, according to a transcript of the call made by the National Review, which listened to the conversation.
It was the first time doubts about Cain’s continued candidacy had surfaced from the candidate himself. As recently as Tuesday morning, a campaign spokesman had stated unequivocally that Cain would not quit.
Cain denied anew that he had an extramarital affair with a Georgia woman who went public a day earlier with allegations they had been intimate for 13 years.
“It was just a friendship relationship,” he said on the call, according to the transcript. “That being said, obviously, this is a cause for reassessment.”
He went on: “With this latest one, we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people’s minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth.”
Saying the episode had taken an emotional toll on him and his family, Cain told the aides that people will have to decide whether they believe him or the accuser.
“That’s why we’re going to give it time, to see what type of response we get from our supporters,” he said.
Cain has denied the affair, as well as several other accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior that have dogged his candidacy over the past month. He had been publicly resolute about pressing ahead, even as his standing in public opinion polls and his fundraising started to slide.
But in the conference call, he pledged only to keep his imminent schedule, including a foreign policy speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan later Tuesday that he promised to deliver with “vim, vigor and enthusiasm.”
He scrapped at least one planned event, withdrawing from a party in New York on Sunday to meet with some of the city’s top journalists, including NBC’s Matt Lauer and ABC’s Barbara Walters. Cindy Adams, the New York Post columnist hosting the dinner, told the AP she had received a call Tuesday from Cain adviser John Coale saying Cain had decided not to attend. Coale declined to comment.
Still, Cain was what one participant described as calm and deliberate as he addressed his staff on the conference call.
The participant, Florida state Rep. Scott Plakon, one of four chairmen for Cain’s Florida campaign, said he wanted to see more evidence from the accuser.
“If it is true that he didn’t do this, I think he should fight and kick and scratch and win,” Plakon said.
But if Cain did have the affair, Plakon said, it would be unacceptable to Republican voters.