By Justin Sink - 11/02/11 01:15 AM EDT
Herman Cain’s campaign believes his aggressive strategy in dealing with claims of sexual harassment is paying dividends — tangible financial ones and those more difficult to count, like maintaining credibility with voters.
His leading campaign adviser noted that Cain had raised one-quarter of a million dollars on Monday as the candidate was embroiled in allegations he behaved in an inappropriate sexual manner toward two female employees during his time as president of the National Restaurant Association.
“It was one of our best fundraising days ever,” campaign manager Mark Block said Tuesday.
“We went into this knowing full well that this is a tough, tough business,” Block said Monday on MSNBC. “We’re not going to change our campaign strategy. Everything that we’ve done to this point has worked beyond our expectations.”
But opting to address the charges head-on is a strategy of high risk and high reward.
The upside: it enables the campaign to parlay a story that could seriously damage Cain’s electability into a showcase for “Herman being Herman.” It also provides an opportunity to demonize the media — and the other candidates who might be feeding the press — in an effort to rally supporters behind Cain’s cause.
And Cain’s campaign believes the magnetism and conviction that propelled the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO from relative unknown to Republican front-runner, along with the candidate’s natural charisma and likability, could be the best way for Cain to weather the allegations.
But as details continue to emerge about the alleged incidents, Cain risks undermining his integrity with voters, who might otherwise be willing to give him a pass on the anonymously sourced story that rocked his campaign.
Cain is staying the course, however, keeping to his previously scheduled events and even adding a few new ones along the way.
He spent Tuesday on a media blitz, with two evening interviews on Fox News along with morning spots with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham and on CNN. In addition, Cain announced that his wife, Gloria, who previously had been absent from the campaign trail, would do a sit-down interview on Fox News later this week.
For Wednesday, Cain is scheduled to speak with Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, have breakfast with technology executives outside Washington, stop at a meeting at a Virginia healthcare lobbying organization and swing by Capitol Hill for multiple events with Republican lawmakers.
But despite relatively friendly media platforms, Cain’s performances have not been without missteps.
And the story is threatening to get bigger.
One of the women who accused Cain wants to tell her side of the story but is barred from doing so by a confidentiality agreement she signed with the National Restaurant Association, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Her attorney, Joel Bennett, called on the trade group to release the woman from her agreement.
“It is just frustrating that Herman Cain is going around badmouthing the two complainants, and my client is blocked by a confidentiality agreement,” Bennett told the Post. “The National Restaurant Association ought to release them and allow them to respond. ”
The restaurant association released a statement late Tuesday that it had seen reports of Bennett’s comments, but that he had not contacted them.
“If we are contacted by Mr. Bennett, we will respond as appropriate,” said Sue Hensley, a spokeswoman for the group.
Cain had not responded to the report by press time.
Cain offered more details regarding the alleged incident Tuesday, struggling to reconcile a statement early Monday to Fox News that he was “unaware of any sort of settlement” stemming from harassment charges with his admission Monday night that he was aware of at least one of his accusers receiving a payout.
The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO said the departure of his accuser was a “separation agreement,” as opposed to a “legal settlement.” He also said that he was not attempting to be intentionally deceptive and that he had revealed all the information he could recall.
“The word ‘settlement’ suggested to me some sort of legal settlement, and later as I thought about it and thought about it I did recall an agreement with the lady that left who made the false accusation,” Cain said on the “Laura Ingraham Show.”
He also offered more details about the alleged incident, saying the extent of his allegedly harassing behavior was commenting to a female employee that she was a similar height to that of his wife, and that those comments came when the door to his office was open and his secretary was outside.
“This happened 12 years ago, and so I have been trying to recollect all of the various pieces of this throughout all day yesterday … Not changing the story, but trying to fill in as many details as I could possibly recall,” Cain told Ingraham.
He also attacked the media, saying the allegations were surfacing now in an attempt to discredit his insurgent presidential campaign.
“Obviously, someone is encouraging them to bring it up now because I’m doing so well,” Cain said on CNN. “I absolutely believe that this is an intended smear campaign.”
Lanny Davis, special counsel to President Clinton during his impeachment trial, said that Cain’s strategy of filling in more details with each subsequent interview could be a recipe for disaster.
“The way he is going about this… is compounding the problem,” said Davis, also a contributor to The Hill.
Davis said Cain should, instead, immediately reveal as much information as he can and work to frame it in the way that will allow him to get back to campaigning the fastest.
“Over a long period of time, I’ve learned that as hard as the medicine is to advise clients, the earlier they get the gags out and answer every reporter’s question, as bad as the story might be, as long as they take responsibility and if necessary, apologize, the story will be over in a couple of days,” Davis said.
— Josh Lederman contributed to this report.