URBANDALE, Iowa— Iowa Republicans are taking a wait and see attitude about allegations of sexual harassment against businessman Herman Cain, who is currently one of the leading candidates in the polls here.
“The current Cain sexual harassment issue doesn’t ring true and is a little too convenient timing-wise,”said Julie Roe, a conservative activist in central Iowa who said she is considering backing Cain in the January caucuses. “I’ve had enough ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’ classes to find most accusations, especially with the tone of these particular accusations. . . to disbelieve them.”
She added, “The whole thing reminds me of Clarence Thomas.”
Steve Deace, who hosts a conservative talk radio show in Des Moines, said, “Like many conservatives it’s hard to resist the temptation of believing this is just another character assassination by the liberal media.”
But Deace, who has not decided who he is supporting, added, “on the other hand, there have been too many red flags about Cain in the past few weeks to just dismiss it without a careful vetting.”
The Des Moines Register on Monday re-interviewed some respondents who backed Cain in a recent poll, and those voters said they would stick with him.
At Cain’s Iowa headquarters in suburban Des Moines, volunteers and staffers said they aren’t worried the allegations will hurt the surging campaign.
“It’s one of those things that happens when a candidate starts going up in the polls, everybody starts sniping at you,” said Roger Burdette, a freelance photographer who is volunteering for Cain.
Asked about the allegations, Burdette said, “My wife and I have met him on four different occasions. I believe him to be an honest and sincere man. If Herman says it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen.”
Another Cain volunteer, a Des Moines lawyer who said he could not give his name for work reasons, said “I think he’s capable of explaining this and I think he has. I trust his judgment.”
Unsurprisingly, his campaign aides are also downplaying the controversy.
“I think it’s having the reverse impact,” said Lisa Lockwood, Cain’s Iowa communications director. “It’s been no negative impact. People see it for what it is— he’s in the lead and he’s not supposed to be leading in the polls, so he’s going to get attacked.”
“People are calling us and saying it’s an attack from another campaign or someone else and as a result, more people are reaching out to help us,” said Larry Tuel, Cain’s Iowa state director.
A Des Moines Register poll over the weekend showed Cain effectively tied with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in Iowa, which will hold the first contest of the GOP presidential nomination process on Jan. 3.
Cain is running a highly unorthodox campaign here: he’s not showing up. The former Godfather’s Pizza executive is not coming to Iowa again till Nov. 18, according to aides. Most of the other candidates are constantly appearing in the state.