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Herman Cain allegations: Is he taking a page from the Clinton playbook?

Herman Cain appears to think he can wait out the current storm over allegations of sexual harassment, just as candidate Bill Clinton did. But Herman Cain is not Bill Clinton.  

By Staff writer / November 3, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is surrounded by security and staff as he walks through a hotel lobby in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday.

Cliff Owen/AP

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WASHINGTON

Amid the sound and fury surrounding Herman Cain, the one element that could blow up his presidential candidacy is missing: an identified victim.

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One of the unnamed women who accused Mr. Cain of sexual harassment has stated, through her lawyer, that she does not want to come out publicly, after all. The other woman who filed a complaint alleging inappropriate behavior by Cain during his time as head of the National Restaurant Association has also remained anonymous. A third former employee says she considered taking formal action against Cain, but opted not to, according to the Associated Press.

In the case of the first woman, lawyer Joel Bennett told The New York Times that his client wants to release a statement asserting that her version of events is different from Cain’s, while not violating her confidentiality agreement with the restaurant group.

Without a name and a face, the allegations remain anonymous – and thus it may be that Cain believes he can ride out the storm and let GOP voters decide if he should be their presidential nominee, political analysts say. His campaign says that since Sunday, when the harassment story broke on Politico.com, fundraising has soared – a sign, the campaign says, that his supporters are sticking by him.  

Even if one of the accusers steps forward publicly, Cain may well believe he can withstand the firestorm. After all, former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton withstood multiple, named allegations of sexual misconduct and became president. He also survived impeachment and finished his second term, despite the Lewinsky sex scandal.

“Politicians are always the last to know that they have been irretrievably damaged,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He argues that Cain was never going to be the nominee in any case, but the harassment allegations have made that possibility even more remote.

Mr. Jillson also doesn’t think that Cain will be able to maintain his support over the long haul. “The first reaction of Republican social conservatives in general is that ‘this is unproven, they’re after our guy, so we’ll suspend judgment,’ ” Jillson says. “But I think that erodes. The facts will out at some point. These things never go away.”

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