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Iowa backers wonder as Cain reassesses campaign

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IOWA CITY — Iowa tea partiers are beginning to doubt Herman Cain.

"His lawyer put the guilty stamp on Herman Cain's forehead," said Cedar Falls tea party activist Judd Saul, referring to attorney Linn Wood's response to allegations of Cain being in an extramarital affair.

On Monday night, Georgia businesswoman Ginger White told FOX TV 5 in Atlanta that she had a 13-year affair with the Republican presidential candidate.

In response, Wood said in a statement that the sex life of Cain, who has been married for more than 43 years, is "not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public."

The campaign's response to White's claims "makes me very hesitant to vote for Herman," Saul told IowaPolitics.com.

Cain also is hesitating about his bid.

During a conference call with his campaign staff on Tuesday, Cain said he needed to figure out "whether or not (the allegation) is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people's minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth."

He also faced allegations of inappropriate behavior in early November, when four women alleged that Cain had sexually harassed them when he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association, an industry business group, during the 1990s.

At the time, Saul and other Iowans rallied to his defense, believing the attacks were a politically motivated character assassination.

But "this latest one is different," said Republican political insider and former Iowa GOP Chairman Rich Schwarm.

"If he wins the nomination, this could probably be more harmful to independents, because they probably think, 'Where there's smoke, there's fire.' Moral character certainly counts with most Iowa Republicans," said Schwarm, who, like a majority of caucus-goers, is vetting candidates.

The most recent Iowa poll shows Cain tied for fourth, alongside Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen Rick Santorum, with 6 percent of support.

The poll of 600 likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers was conducted Nov. 17-23, prior to White's allegation, by American Research Group, a New Hampshire-based polling and market research company. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has admitted two extramarital affairs, one of which led him to his current wife, Callista, led the poll with 27 percent of support. He could stand to gain more support if Cain drops out of the race, Schwarm said.

When asked how allegations of infidelity could sink Cain's campaign, while Gingrich rises, Schwarm said supporters are "well-aware of his vast baggage. With Cain, it's new."

But, values voters gave up on Cain long ago, said the Rev. Mike Demastus of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ.

"The life issue way back when was probably a bigger red flag for many of us," Demastus said, referring to Cain's suggestion during an Oct. 19 interview with CNN host Piers Morgan that women have the right to choose on the issue of abortion.

Demastus said values voters are divided among Bachmann, Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Bachmann tried to capitalize on Cain's troubles during an interview with WHO radio host Jan Mickelson on Tuesday.

Bachmann said Cain's reassessment was code for realizing that his support was dropping.

"As people have been out shopping around with the candidates, I think they're going to come back home and see that I have been the consistent constitutional conservative," Bachmann said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Cain's Iowa campaign operatives claimed his support here remains solid.

None of the 900 precinct captains pledging to back Cain in the Iowa caucuses called the Urbandale campaign headquarters to decline their duties to represent him to voters on Jan. 3, said Larry Tuel, Cain state campaign director.

"We are all believers in Herman Cain in this office and are looking forward to seeing this campaign through to the Iowa caucuses," Tuel said on Tuesday, hours after a conference call with Cain and other staff members.

Pottawattamie County GOP Chairman Jeff Jorgensen also vowed to stand by Cain.

Former Democratic President "Bill Clinton lowered the bar enough that these allegations aren't going anywhere," Jorgensen said.

News about Clinton's extramarital affair with 25-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky resulted in an investigation, and eventual impeachment in 1998 by the U.S. House. After a 21-day Senate trial, Clinton was acquitted of the impeachment charges.

Jorgensen said he and other supporters respect Cain's positions on conservative issues, such as his 9-9-9 tax plan and pledge to tighten American border security.

Hannah Hess covers government and politics for IowaPolitics.com, which is owned by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

 

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