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Hill GOP Gives Herman Cain Warm Reception

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Despite making a positive impression on the GOP establishment today, presidential candidate Herman Cain was trailed by the media in Washington, D.C.

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.

“I think he brought some clarity to it. I don’t know that it’s sold yet. I mean you have different states that have different tax policy,” Denham said.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman said Cain has to prove himself worthy of the nomination and capable of serving as president, particularly given his thin political résumé and meteoric rise in the polls. But if Cain was feeling the effects of the three-day-old scandal, he wasn’t showing it, the Indiana Republican said. In response to a reporter’s question, Stutzman said the Georgia businessman did come off as “presidential” material.

“There’s a real vetting process, and he’s going through that now,” Stutzman said. “Whatever the situation with the allegations, he’s going to have to deal with it. And, look, people will decide.”

Chambliss, a fellow Georgia Republican who has known Cain for years, said Tuesday night’s dinner discussion centered mostly on the candidate’s campaign, with little time spent discussing the harassment claims. Chambliss organizes a weekly dinner for a handful of his fellow Senate Republicans and has previously hosted presidential candidates Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney.

The scandal, Chambliss said, “was part of the discussion, and he didn’t say anything he hasn’t said to you in the press.”

Cain was scheduled to hold a one-on-one meeting this evening with Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), an influential conservative in the Palmetto State and nationally. The two had met previously but have not spent much time together. DeMint said the meeting had been scheduled for several weeks and was part of his effort to meet with all of the candidates seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

DeMint expressed sympathy for the position Cain has found himself in since it was reported that two female employees accused him of sexual harassment in the late 1990s, toward the end of his tenure as president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. The South Carolina Republican, who backed Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, said he did not expect to endorse a primary candidate until January, if he does so at all.

“It just sounds like something that happens to a lot of folks I knew — pastors, business people — all my life who just had these accusations. There’s not much you can do about it,” DeMint said. “All he can do is tell the truth. I’m just glad it came out early. It’s something that’s likely to go away.”

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