Could Cain overcome the latest allegations?
Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET
"Here we go again," Republican presidential frontrunner Herman Cain said on CNN Monday, just before Ginger White, an Atlanta-based woman, alleged she had a 13-year-long extramarital affair with Cain.
Cain denied the allegation, insisting that he -- and the American people -- would rather talk about more important matters. And with that in mind, his campaign is so far chugging along, hoping to sweep all the controversies surrounding Cain to the side. The candidate is scheduled to give a foreign policy speech this evening.
Still, Cain may be coming to grips with the seemingly inevitable fate of his campaign: The National Review reports that Cain told his staffers this morning he is "reassessing" whether to stay in the race. Cain said he needs to decide whether the latest accusation will create "too much of a cloud" around his campaign, the Des Moines Register reports
A senior staffer confirmed to CBS News, "We are reassessing our strategy. As we did when the first false allegations came out and as we did when we won the straw poll."
The latest allegations may or may not be enough to sink Herman Cain's campaign -- given the flaws of his Republican rivals, he could maintain some base of support. That said, the newest charges only serve to underscore that the collection of sexual harassment charges leveled against him in the past month, combined with a series of other campaign missteps, had already quashed his chances of emerging as a truly viable candidate.
In the aftermath of revelations that Herman Cain faced sexual harassment charges in the 1990's, which surfaced in late October, it appeared that conservatives were perhaps willing to rally behind Cain and defend his reputation. But as the number of women charging Cain with sexual harassment climbed to five, his support started to wane. He also suffered after appearing less-than-competent in some instances -- such stumbling over a question regarding the conflict in Libya.
Monday night -- right about the time Ginger White was dropping the latest Cain bombshell -- conservative Iowa radio talk show host Steve Deace was conducting a focus group that indicated Cain's goose was already cooked.
The focus group of 11 evangelical conservatives who were either undecided or loosely committed dismissed Cain as "shallow" and "incompetent," the Des Moines Register reports. Evangelical conservatives are a key voting bloc in the influential state, which holds the nation's first presidential nominating contest on January 3.
Nationally-recognized conservatives this week seem equally tired of Cain. "I would much rather talk about how Barack Obama is screwing the country with disastrous policies, but instead we are yet again forced to talk about who Herman Cain might have had sexual relations with," conservative blogger Erick Erickson lamented at Redstate.com after hearing of White's allegations.
A look at the Quinnipiac polls conducted November 2 and November 22 reveal the extent of the damage of Cain's bad month. On November 2, in a theoretical match-up between Cain and Mitt Romney, Republican and Republican-leaning voters preferred Cain by eight points. But by November 22, Romney had a 13-point lead over Cain. Cain's favorability rating also flipped in those three weeks: The earlier poll showed that slightly more people had a positive opinion of Cain (33 percent) than a negative opinion (31percent). But by the later poll, perceptions had clearly turned with 44 percent giving him an unfavorable rating and 26 percent giving him a favorable rating.
Polls suggest that questions about Cain's competence may be just as, if not more, critical to his standing than the sexual harassment allegations. As voters have abandoned Cain, they've turned to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The Quinnipiac polls show that voters perceive Romney and Gingrich as much stronger than the rest of the field on issues like the economy and foreign policy.
Still, Cain may find enough support to keep his campaign alive, since voters have yet to coalesce around anyone else. While Gingrich is currently surging, the former House speaker has plenty problems of his own -- including a history of personal controversies, though those issues are well in the past. Voters may also soon acknowledge that, like Romney, Gingrich has a history of taking moderate positions on typically ideologically divisive issues like health care and climate change.
If anyone understands how unpredictable a political campaign can be, it's Newt Gingrich.
"I'm not going to say any candidate is done. Every candidate has a chance to go out and make their case," Gingrich said on "The O'Reilly Factor'' on Fox News Monday night, referring to Cain's latest troubles. "Look, people said I was dead in June and July, as you will remember."
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