Outsider Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is spending a tumultuous week in Washington courting the GOP establishment. And, at least for now, it seems that the establishment likes him — despite allegations of sexual harassment that continue to surface.
Following a series of private meetings with the Georgia businessman early in the week, Republican Members pronounced themselves impressed with Cain and unconcerned about the sexual harassment claims that have dogged the White House hopeful since Politico reported them Sunday. Cain spoke today with Members in several private settings as he sought to boost support for his campaign, sell his controversial 9-9-9 tax overhaul and simply introduce himself to an audience of strangers.
However, a media horde trailed Cain at every stop and sought to get him to comment on sexual harassment allegations and a sealed settlement that occurred while Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association during the 1990s. While Cain was making the rounds on Capitol Hill, the Associated Press broke news that a third woman now claims Cain acted inappropriately toward her when she worked at the association, and a GOP pollster who supports Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign told an Oklahoma radio station that he personally witnessed Cain sexually harassing a female employee of the restaurant group in the late 1990s.
But Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), who was among 10 Republican Senators to attend a private Tuesday evening dinner with Cain, said the presidential candidate is positioned to be a major factor in the primary if his campaign is not derailed by the harassment charges and his poor handling of the flap.
“I think he’s a very impressive candidate,” Burr said. “He’s got an impressive business record, and I think we will all wait to see how he weathers the current onslaught of these accusations. But I would expect that given his position in the polls, he will be a driving component to this primary process.” The dinner was organized by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.).
House Republicans meeting this afternoon with Cain during a closed-door meet-and-greet at the Capitol Hill Club indicated they might be open to supporting his candidacy, but they said Cain has work to do in convincing Members to support his agenda and the idea that he is presidential. Cain voluntarily raised the issue of the sexual harassment allegations, saying they are false and that he would continue to fight them vigorously, according to Members in the room.
Lost amid the harassment charges is the difficulty Cain might have, if he were to win the GOP nomination, in convincing Republican Members to support his 9-9-9 plan, which would reduce individual and corporate income taxes to a flat 9 percent but also install a national, 9 percent sales tax. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) said several Members had questions about the plan and that Cain made the pitch, but the lawmaker indicated that it’s not going to be an easy sell.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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