Herman Cain seeks to salvage reputation as scandal continues

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain pauses while speaking at the Congressional Health Caucus Thought Leaders Series, Nov. 2, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain leaves after a speech at the National Press Club October 31, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Updated at 12:40 p.m. ET

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain on Tuesday aggressively attacked the character of the latest woman to accuse him of sexual misconduct, emphatically maintaining his innocence even as the building charges take a toll on his reputation.

The Cain campaign sent an email to it supporters on Tuesday with the subject line, "Who is Sharon Bialek?" The email lays out Bialek's history of filing civil lawsuits as well as her shaky financial history, putting her motives into question.

"The fact is that Ms. Bialek has had a long and troubled history, from the courts to personal finances - which may help explain why she has come forward 14 years after an alleged incident with Mr. Cain, powered by celebrity attorney and long term Democrat donor Gloria Allred," the email says.

The email comes ahead of a press conference Tuesday afternoon during which Cain has vowed to address the charges against him "head on."

After Sharon Bialek came forward on Monday to accuse Cain of groping her in the 1990's, Cain responded that he's ready to "set the record straight."

"There is not an ounce of truth to all these allegations," the former restaurant lobbyist told talk show host Jimmy Kimmel on Monday. "We are taking this head on."

A new Wall Street Journal/ NBC poll shows that the percentage of people with a negative opinion of Cain has risen to from 18 percent in October to 35 percent. Among Republican primary voters, the percentage of those with a negative view of the candidate rose from 6 percent in October to 19 percent.

Still, the percentage of Republican primary voters with a positive view of Cain stayed the same at 52 percent. On top of that, the poll shows Cain is still statistically tied for first place with Mitt Romney among Republican primary voters. The poll was conducted Nov. 2 - Nov. 5; initial reports of harassment charges against Cain broke on October 30.

Meanwhile, it's impossible to know what other accusations could emerge if Cain doesn't clear the air. In the latest story, one former government employee came forward on Tuesday to say she found Cain's motives suspicious when he asked her to help arrange a dinner date between him and a young woman, the Washington Examiner reports.

Up to this point, Cain's strong favorability ratings stood out as noteworthy when compared to the ratings voters give the rest of the GOP field. Addressing the harassment charges directly may be the best thing Cain can do to save those faltering numbers, some Republicans are saying.

If he doesn't, conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats told the Des Moines Register, a "cloud of doubt will envelop his candidacy."

Vander Plaats is president of the Family Leader, an influential Christian conservative organization in Iowa, the first state to hold its presidential nominating contest.

"The Iowa and American voter are fair when humility, sincerity and authenticity are communicated," Vander Plaats said. "This is a tipping point for the viability of his campaign."

Oran Smith, head of the Christian conservative Palmetto Family Council in South Carolina (another early nominating state), similarly told Politico, "The American people and specifically Republican primary voters need some closure on this and really only he can do that."

Even Cain's latest accuser, Bialek, said on CBS' "The Early Show" that she came forward "because I wanted to help [Cain]. I wanted to give him a platform to come clean, to tell the truth."

She added, "And he still hasn't done it and it's really a shame because he could have."

Bialek, a Republican, even added that she'd consider voting for Cain if he admitted to the alleged harassment. "I hope that he does, and I'd have to think about that one," she said.

Before announcing that he would hold a press conference Tuesday evening, it appeared as if Cain's campaign was ready to simply focus on its economic message. The campaign released a web video on Monday targeting Iowa voters, which focused on the excessive regulations putting a burden on farmers. (Watch below)

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