Player of the week: Herman Cain

Herman Cain is facing a huge test this week.

The White House hopeful is staring down a major campaign crisis, hoping to fend off allegations of sexual harassment while he was heading the National Restaurant Association more than a decade ago. 

Cain launched a media offensive on Monday to tell his side of the story, appearing on various cable news shows to claim he had been falsely accused.

He told The Hill that he sees similarities between his situation and the one faced by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991 amid the Anita Hill allegations.

But he isn’t sure how long his ordeal will continue to attract headlines: “The only question would be, how long are people going to drag this baseless, false accusation out? I can’t determine that.”

Controversy is not new to candidates running for president. Many times, it’s not necessarily what you do, it’s how you deal with it that determines whether you’re able to survive. 

One of the staples of effective crisis communication is to get all the information out as quickly as possible and to tell the truth. If there is more to the Cain story, he is in real trouble. He claims he is not hiding anything.

Cain is an unconventional candidate, and his message and personality have resonated with a significant portion of the GOP electorate. The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza is at the top of the polls, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R).

Over the last couple of weeks, the conventional wisdom was that Cain’s numbers would dip, especially after his conflicting statements on abortion. But those predictions didn’t come true.

Will this controversy sink Cain? It remains to be seen, but his strategy of attacking the Washington media establishment is a shrewd opening move.

By the end of this week, Cain needs the political trade press to be writing about something else. If this issue is still hot on the Sunday shows, his candidacy could be doomed.