But Herman Cain, whose problems have transfixed the Republican presidential campaign, has used a different strategy. The businessman often responds to trouble with a flat, short answer: Whatever it is, it isn’t true.
His denials usually come with little or no explanation. When other candidates — not to mention economists — began to find flaws in his “9-9-9” tax plan, Cain responded, “All those are simply not true.”
When allegations of sexual harassment were first raised against him, Cain denied any validity to them. “Totally baseless and totally false,” he said, denying that there was any settlement in the cases.
But the trouble with this tactic is that it doesn’t work if the first answer doesn’t hold up.
Voters have now twice seen Cain return to explain that the story was more complicated than he first let on. The 9-9-9 plan did need a tweak, after all. And there had been a sexual harassment settlement, despite what he said.
Now, Cain’s campaign seems to be riding on his latest blanket denial: that there is no truth to the accusation that he had a 13-year affair with a Georgia woman. A “fabricated, unsubstantiated story,” he said in an e-mail sent to supporters on Tuesday.
“They want you to believe if they do enough character assassination on me, I’m going to drop out,” Cain told a crowd of dozens in Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday. “I happen to believe that the American people have a different idea.”
A day after Cain said he was “reassessing” his candidacy, his next move still seemed a mystery. His campaign manager had promised that the Dayton speech would include an outline of Cain’s “strategic reassessment” of the campaign.
But instead, the candidate gave a fairly standard, upbeat stump speech, saying at one point: “I want to be president.”
Later in the day in Columbus, Cain was asked whether he intends to stay in the race for the long haul. “Still reassessing and reevaluating,” he said, adding he will decide in “several days.”
Cain has not budged from his denials that there was anything improper about his relationship with Ginger White, who said that she and the married candidate had carried on a long affair.
At a Republican Governors Association meeting in Orlando, Cain’s handling of the latest allegations drew criticism.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour made clear that he does not think Cain’s campaign has dealt with the allegations effectively. He urged Cain to put all the facts on the table when the first allegations of sexual harassment came to light. “I don’t know if all the facts are out or not,” the governor said Wednesday.
Cain’s way of dealing with criticism appeared in his first moment in the national spotlight, when he questioned President Bill Clinton during a 1994 town hall meeting on health-care reform. Cain, then the chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, told Clinton that his plans for expanding health insurance would drive up his operating costs.