DAYTON, Ohio - Sounding like a candidate looking for a reason to stay in the race, Herman Cain on Wednesday told supporters here he is the victim of "character assassination" and appealed to them to stick with him in the face of another allegation of sexual misconduct.
"Stay inspired," Cain told an enthusiastic audience of several hundred people at a local hotel. "They want me to believe that we can't do this. They want you to believe that with enough character assassination on me that I will drop out."
The crowd booed at this suggestion. The approximately 300 people gathered here for the second stop of the Republican presidential contender's day-long Ohio bus tour represented a relatively small audience by recent Cain standards, but they made up for it in enthusiasm, interrupting his speech with chants of "Nine-nine-nine," and "We want Cain." One sign touted a Cain/Bachmann ticket, suggesting that the Georgia businessman tap rival presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, as his running mate.
One day after telling supporters in a conference call that he is "reassessing" his campaign in the wake of a longtime woman friend's charges that they had a 13-year affair, Cain seemed intent on tamping down speculation of an early exit. He chuckled at the notion that he would drop out and suggested that his most recent troubles are a sign of political strength.
"One of the reasons that they want to try to shoot me down and tear me down is because of the strength of my message that's resonating with the American people," Cain said. Repeating a line he uses to turn his sometimes unpolished approach into a virtue, Cain added: "With me you don't have to worry about being politically correct."
Cain asked voters to be skeptical of campaign "disinformation" as he continues his quest for the White House.
"Here's what I need you to do to help me get there: Stay informed," he said. "Stupid people are ruining America."