Cain Campaign Follows Clinton in Coping with Allegations

Herman Cain has public relations model in Bill Clinton.


Herman Cain's decision to hold a press conference Tuesday to address the latest accusations of sexual harassment levied against him indicates his campaign is finally capitulating to conventional public relations tactics in order to deal with the political firestorm.

Cain, who has recently led national polls for the GOP presidential nomination, has had to defend himself against allegations of sexual harassment from a number of women during his time as president of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990's.

And though many have criticized his campaign's reaction to the charges – which has taken turns attacking the media and the women making the claims – others point to what Cain has gotten right.

[Cain bungles scandal management 101.]

Paul Gigot is the editorial page editor for the Wall Street Journal and host of the Journal Editorial Report on the Fox News Channel. On a recent show, he asked panelists why Cain didn't "pre-emptively" put the story about old allegations out in hopes of owning it instead of being forced to react.

"If you knew that this existed, why wouldn't you preemptively get this out? Because inevitability, in modern politics, this is what happens. Every story comes out. You are under withering scrutiny," he said.

But David Woodard, GOP political consultant and professor at Clemson University, says it didn't make sense for Cain to sabotage himself when he was a marginal candidate, but agreed that the best defense in politics is a good offense.

"He shouldn't have said anything about it at first when he polled at one percent, but at some point, they had to say something," he says. "The Clinton campaign had someone in charge of bimbo eruptions. They knew at the very beginning that they had a problem and it was their job to go out and discredit these women."

But you've got to be prepared and I think that what everybody is saying and thinking is (Cain) isn't handling this very well," he added.

[See political cartoons of the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic campaign consulting and polling firm, also cites the Clinton campaign as an example of a campaign well-equipped for trouble they knew was coming. And she agrees with Woodard that it didn't make sense for the Cain campaign to self-report the allegations at the beginning of his candidacy.

"I honestly think it would be a bit of a mistake to come out and fess up to it—because you don't know that it's going to come out because it's not in the public record," she says. "It just seems like a big risk to take."

Cain is scheduled to hold a press conference in Phoenix at 5 p.m. ET today to take on the latest allegations, which were lobbed against him on Monday by Sharon Bialek.

Bialek is the first accuser to come forward publicly with specifics of Cain's alleged behavior. In 1997, Cain reached up her skirt and pushed her head down towards his crotch after a dinner meeting, she said.

Two other women reportedly received settlements of tens of thousands of dollars from the NRA and signed non-disclosure agreements after they alleged sexual harassment by Cain during his tenure as president of the group.

The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza has been married to his wife, Gloria, for more than 40 years.