Herman Cain "reassessing" candidacy after affair claim

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 8: Republican presidential candidate and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain speaks at a press conference November 8, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Cain is facing pressure after a fourth woman came forward Monday to accuse Cain of inappropriate behavior when he was while CEO of the National Restaurant Association. Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Updated 2:26 p.m. Eastern Time

The Herman Cain campaign is "reassessing" its strategy in the wake of a woman's claim that she and Cain had engaged in a 13-year extramarital relationship, a senior staffer to the campaign told CBS News and National Journal on condition of anonymity.

The staffer made the statement following reports that Cain told supporters Tuesday morning that he is reassessing his role in the Republican presidential race.

On a five-minute conference call, Cain told his senior staff that he would complete the assessment "over the next several days," according to National Review.

Cain reportedly said on the call that he needs to decide if the affair allegation creates "too much of a cloud, in some people's minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth."

Ginger White
Ginger White poses for a photo near Dunwoody, Ga., Nov. 28, 2011.
AP Photo/Greg Bluestein

On Monday, Ginger White came forward alleging the long-term "very inappropriate" relationship with the former Godfather's Pizza CEO. Cain said he knew White but denied the affair. A statement from Cain's lawyer said White's claims of a consensual affair between two adults is not a legitimate news story.

Could Cain overcome the latest allegations?

Cain slipped in the polls following late-October accusations of sexual misconduct by multiple women while he was head of the National Restaurant Association, accusations he has strongly denied. From the middle of October through the first week of November, Cain was polling in the 20-30 percent range, putting him atop polls of the GOP presidential contenders. Recent polls show him sliding to support in the mid-teens, behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

The Cain senior staffer told CBS News that the reassessment is no different than the one that took place "when the first false allegations came out" as well as after the Cain's Florida straw poll victory.

Cain spokesman JD Gordon, meanwhile, told CBS News that "It's a reassessment of where we stand and the road ahead, similar to other times in the campaign's history." Gordon told the Washington Post that Cain "is not thinking of dropping out of the race."

One Cain supporter who was on the conference call suggested to CBS News that Cain is simply in the process of retooling his campaign to deal with the problems with messaging, fundraising and other issues in the wake of the allegations.

Meanwhile, Rep. Michele Bachmann suggested Tuesday morning that the people around her believe Cain is "done" in the wake of the affair claim.

"Everyone has said to me yesterday - when it came out yesterday, everyone said this is it he's done," the Republican presidential candidate said on the Scott Hennen radio show. "People just don't see that there is an ability for him to be able to come back after that."

On another radio show later in the day, Bachmann added that Cain's team "recognize[s] that the support has really dropped out of the campaign."

According to National Review, Cain was "somber" on the conference call Tuesday. He said he "unequivocally" denies the charges of an affair, adding that he had been attempting to help White "financially because she was out of work and destitute, desperate."

"So, thinking that she was a friend -- and I have helped many friends -- I now know that she wasn't the friend that I thought she was," he added. "But it was a just a friendship relationship."

Woman alleges 13-year affair with Herman Cain

"That being said, obviously, this is cause for reassessment," Cain continued. He then went on to say the campaign has made "reassessments" in the past based on financial concerns and other matters but was "able to hang in there."

"Now, with this latest one, we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people's minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth," added Cain.

He said the situation has "taken a toll on my wife and family."

"Any time you put another cloud of doubt, unfortunately, in the court of public opinion, for some people, you're guilty until proven innocent," said Cain. "And so, the public will have to decide whether they believe her or whether they believe me. That's why we're going to give it time, to see what type of response we get from our supporters."

Lori Klein, an Arizona state Senator and Cain's Arizona state chairman, told CBS News she stands by Cain.

She says she has known him for 12 years and he's "never been anything but a gentlemen - and I am not an unattractive woman."

Klein suggested that if Cain is innocent he should sue White for libel and went on to attack the media for digging up the allegations. She also said that in politics, "we want a virgin to do a hooker's job."

With reporting by Lindsey Boerma and Caroline Horn.

Full CBS News coverage: Herman Cain

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