As Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain remains disinclined to talk about decade-old accusations of sexual harassment, a poll shows a sudden decline in his support.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sunday found the percentage of Republicans who view former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Cain favorably dropped from 66 percent a week ago to 57 percent. His favorability declined also among all registered voters, from 37 percent to 32 percent.
“The most striking thing is that Herman Cain is actually seeing a fairly substantial decline in favorability ratings toward him particularly among Republicans,” Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson observed.
As of Thursday, Cain was leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 3 percent among conservative voters, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll. But the allegations of sexual misconduct have changed that.
At least three women recently alleged that Cain sexually harassed them when he was the president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. But Cain has insisted he was wrongfully accused, at times giving conflicting statements.
Amid Cain’s denials, Joel Bennett, the lawyer of one of the women, Friday told reporters, “My client filed a written complaint [with the restaurant association] in 1999 against him specifically and it had very specific instances in it, and if he chooses not to remember or to acknowledge those, that’s his issue.”
Cain’s silence, which follows denials, is not helping. More than half of all respondents of the Reuters/Ipsos poll said they believed the allegations were true. However, only 39 percent Republicans thought they were accurate.
The poll of 1,007 adults conducted Friday and Saturday by interviewing individuals via a U.S. online household panel also found that more than 80 percent of respondents had heard of the allegations. More importantly, 88 percent of Republicans said they were aware. And four in 10 respondents, and one in three Republicans, said the accusations had made them less favorable toward Cain.
Cain seems determined to sidestep the accusations. At a news conference Saturday which followed a debate with Newt Gingrich in Texas, Cain cut off a Washington Post reporter as he was asking about complaints of sexual harassment.
“Don’t even go there,” Cain snapped, the newspaper reported. “Can I ask my question?” the reporter asked. “No,” Cain replied, as a debate organizer shouted: “No gossip!” “Where’s my chief of staff?” Cain asked, signaling for campaign manager Mark Block, who was standing in the back of the room. “Please send him the journalistic code of ethics,” Cain instructed Block, and left a few minutes later.
Reporters are also asking why Cain’s wife Gloria is silent on the accusations and why she is not with him on the campaign trail.
Gloria Cain, an active member of a church in Georgia, canceled a well-publicized interview with Fox News scheduled for Friday night at the last minute.
The National Restaurant Association Friday confirmed that a formal internal complaint was filed against Cain in July 1999. However, Cain “disputed the allegations in the complaint” even at that time, the president and CEO of the association, Dawn Sweeney, said in a statement. “The Association and Mr. Bennett’s client subsequently entered into an agreement to resolve the matter, without any admission of liability,” he added. The association reportedly paid the woman $45,000, as payout to leave the organization.
“Mr. Cain was not a party to that agreement,” Sweeney clarified. It contained mutual confidentiality obligations, but the association had agreed to put aside the confidentiality provisions in case the woman was willing to discuss the allegations, the statement added.
However, the unnamed woman has said through her lawyer that she and her husband have decided not to go public as that could be “extremely painful.”