Sexual harassment charges continue to dog Herman Cain

On the Sunday talk shows, some Republicans said Herman Cain hasn’t done enough to answer questions about sexual harassment. A new poll shows the charges by three women have begun to damage his bid for the White House.

By , Staff writer

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    Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain answers questions about sexual harassment allegations at the National Press Club in Washington Oct. 31. Some Republican officials said Sunday that Cain hasn’t done enough to answer those questions.
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Sexual harassment charges continued to dog Herman Cain Sunday as several Republicans said the presidential hopeful hasn’t done enough to answer questions.

Has this major distraction for his campaign had any impact since first reported by Politico a week ago?

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken since the news broke Oct. 30, “represents the first evidence that sexual harassment claims dating from Mr. Cain's time as head of the National Restaurant Association have taken a toll on his presidential campaign.”

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The poll showed the percentage of Republicans who view Cain favorably dropped 9 percentage points, to 57 percent from 66 percent a week ago, Reuters reports. Among all registered voters, Cain's favorability declined 5 percentage points, to 32 percent from 37 percent.

A majority of respondents, 53 percent, believe sexual harassment allegations against Cain are true despite his denials, according to the news agency poll. Republicans were less likely to believe they are true, with 39 percent thinking they are accurate. Also, 40 percent of the 1,007 poll respondents, who were queried online Friday and Saturday, said the harassment issue left them with a less favorable view toward Cain. About 35 percent of Republicans said the controversy had made them less favorable toward Cain.

Still, 35 percent with a less favorable view (and 39 percent believing the charges) is a large segment of Cain’s own party. And as Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson said, "The most striking thing is that Herman Cain is actually seeing a fairly substantial decline in favorability ratings toward him particularly among Republicans.”

The review among Republican elected officials Sunday was mixed.

Some – like Rep. Ron Paul, a GOP presidential candidate – see it as a “distraction” that “dilutes the debate,” as he said on "Fox News Sunday."

“I just don’t see anonymous sources as fair against a candidate,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) of Texas said on "State of the Union" on CNN.

But on the same show, former US Rep. Tom Davis (R) of Virginia said of Cain: “He was flavor of the week – his week is up.”

On NBC’s "Meet the Press," presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. said Cain needs to "get the information out and get it out in total."

"Legitimate questions have been raised, and that information has to come forward,” Mr. Huntsman said.

So far, Cain seems more inclined to hunker down and add nothing to what he’s already said about the charges.

He has rankled at inquisitive reporters eager for a response to the latest turn in what may or may not be a full-blown scandal.

He canceled the scheduled appearance by his wife, Gloria Cain, on Fox News' "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” Friday night – a venue that likely would have been friendly.

And he made sure nothing about sexual harassment would be asked at Saturday night’s two-man “debate” with Newt Gingrich about entitlement programs before a tea party crowd in Texas – which was more like a mutual admiration society get-together.

But none of that has lessened media and public interest in the subject, something of which leading Republicans are acutely aware.

"What he wants to do is get back on message," said Mississippi governor and former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, also speaking on "Meet the Press." "The way to do that is to get all the facts on the table and get it behind him."

"I’m not one of the people who think this is necessarily fatal. It might not hurt him at all,” Mr. Barbour said. “But people need to know what the facts are. And that’s the challenge for him right now – to get those out as quickly as possible and get it behind him."

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