Cain, a former businessman, has been surging in the polls as he seeks the GOP presidential nomination. And his core conservative supporters are so suspicious of the "mainstream media"--which many consider eager to damage candidates of the right--that the ongoing media pile-on might actually create sympathy for Cain within the GOP electorate.
At the same time, continued changes in his story might make him appear to be a dissembler and raise the prospect that he is just another politician who will say what it takes to survive. This would run counter to his image as a straight-talking Washington outsider and could badly hurt his presidential bid.
After refusing to address the controversy initially, Cain has now admitted that he was accused of sexual harassment in the 1990s when he was head of the National Restaurant Association. He has strongly denied the allegations.
The charges were first made in Politico Sunday night, and since then the media have given extensive coverage to the controversy.
Another rising concern among GOP strategists is whether Cain and his staff are experienced and savvy enough to cope with the inevitable pressures and crises of a national campaign. Several strategists pointed out that Cain and his senior advisers should have anticipated the firestorm that started after Politicopublished its story Sunday night, since the publication had contacted them about the allegations much earlier.
Among Cain's inconsistencies was his comment at the National Press Club in Washington yesterday that, "I am unaware of any sort of settlement" involving those who made the sexual-harassment allegations, which he labeled a "witch hunt." But later in the day, he told Greta Van Susteran of Fox News Channel that "There was some sort of settlement or termination."