All eyes will be on Cain tonight in Michigan

Republican presidential candidates from left, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Texas Gov. Rick Perry, businessman Herman Cain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, partially obscured, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum participate in a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Republican presidential candidates at a debate Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011.
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Eight Republicans running for president will be on stage together for an economic debate in Michigan tonight, but all eyes will be on Herman Cain. And maybe Mitt Romney, especially for what he says about Cain.

Herman Cain has dominated media coverage of the Republican primary since Oct. 30, when Politico first reported the former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza was accused of inappropriate behavior by two women who worked under him during a brief stint as head of the National Restaurant Association.

Cain initially turned the question back on a reporter who asked him in front of television cameras if he had ever been accused of sexual harassment. He has since denied all accusations which have become more specific and graphic in recent days.

Cain obviously wants to move beyond the scandal, but it is unclear if he will be able to pull that off.

After a fourth woman, Sharon Bialek, announced Monday that Cain tried to fondle her after a dinner more than a dozen years ago, one of the earlier women who had initially hoped to remain anonymous has said she wants to join a press conference with all the women who have claimed to have been harassed by Cain.

The other candidates have mostly tried avoid any direct mention of Cain's predicament, though that has started to change. Mitt Romney said Tuesday the allegations are a very "serious matter" and should be "taken seriously." Michele Bachmann has said his inconsistency over policy positions is more troubling than the harassment allegations. And Jon Huntsman has said the scandal is sucking "all the oxygen" from the other candidates

Tonight in Michigan, the focus may be on the economy and how the candidates plan to bring down the nation's 9.1 percent unemployment rate. But it seems unlikely that questions about Cain's behavior will not arise at all.

And coverage of whatever he says -- and what the others say about him-- is sure to dominate. If Cain can survive tonight's debate, he'll be put to the test once again on Saturday, in the CBS News/National Journal foreign policy debate in South Carolina.

Click here to submit questions for Saturday's debate.

Herman Cain: I'd take lie detector test to rebut Sharon Bialek claims
Herman Cain fires back at accuser Sharon Bialek
Gingrich: Cain owes woman and public explanation
Santorum: Up to public to decide if Cain charges are true

  • Corbett Daly On Twitter»

    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.

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