Is Herman Cain's political goose cooked?

Lawyer Gloria Allred attends a news conference with Sharon Bialek (L) during a news conference in New York November 7, 2011. Bialek told the media that Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain sexually harassed her in the late 1990s when she sought his help with an employment issue while he was president of the National Restaurant Association. Sharon Bialek became the first woman to go public with detailed allegations, amid swirling accusations by four different women of sexual harassment by Cain, vying to be crowned the Republican Party's nominee for the 2012 elections. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011.
Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain speaks at the National Press Club in Washington Oct. 31, 2011
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

GOP presidential aspirant Herman Cain has been steadfast in his denials that he sexually harassed any woman in his lifetime. The allegations have taken a toll on his ability to stay on message as he campaigns, but his popularity and poll numbers have continued to hold steady.

In a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, Cain is tied for the lead with Romney for the GOP presidential nomination, each with 21 percent of Republicans survey from Nov. 2 to Nov. 6. 

However, his campaign may have hit a roadblock that his persistent denials of any wrongdoing and claims of personal integrity cannot remove. 

Sharon Bialek has put a public name and face to the allegations of sexual harassment. She is the fourth woman to allege that Cain engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior during his tenure at the National Restaurant Association more than a decade ago.

She said that Cain was "sexually inappropriate" with her in 1997, stating that he put his hand under her skirt and pushed her head toward his crotch during a dinner meeting. When she asked what he was doing, she said he responded by asking her: "You want a job, right?"

Bialek is maintaining that she has no other agenda in coming forward other than to ask Cain to "come clean" about what occurred. 

Her statements followed those of another woman, who received a financial settlement after alleging sexual harassment by Cain. In a statement by her lawyer, Joel Bennett, on Friday, the woman, who did not want to come forward publicly, said she stood by her allegations. Regarding Bialek's allegation, Bennett told the New York Times on Monday, "It corroborates the claim."

Thompson/Reuters online poll taken over the weekend indicated some erosion in Cain's favorability rating among Republican voters, dropping from 66 percent a week ago to 9 percent.

In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press from Nov. 3 to Nov. 6, 39 percent of respondents who had heard of the sexual harassment allegations against Cain believe they are true, and 25 percent believe the the claims are false. But, among GOP women familiar with the claims 46 percent believe they are false, compared to 24 percent who believe they are true. However, this poll was conducted prior to Bialek's statement on Monday.

Those polls may be more of a sign that Cain's political career reached its peak last week, and is now heading for a crash, unless he can convince voters that his accusers are making false claims in order to derail his candidacy. 

Prior to Bialek's appearance before the microphones with attorney Gloria Allred, Cain's campaign offered this statement regarding the allegations:

Just as the country finally begins to refocus on our crippling $15 trillion national debt and the unacceptably high unemployment rate, now activist celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred is bringing forth more false accusations against the character of Republican front-runner Herman Cain.

All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone. Fortunately the American people will not allow Mr. Cain's bold "9-9-9 Plan", clear foreign policy vision and plans for energy independence to be overshadowed by these bogus attacks.

Whatever the truth, Cain's continued quest for the nomination depends on whether the alleged sexual harassment charges, now made more vivid by Sharon Bialek, will be viewed by Republican voters as more credible and his response as blatantly dishonest. His competitors vying for the nomination won't likely be jumping in to defend his honor. 

  • Dan Farber On Twitter»

    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.

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