Vander Plaats also sees a penchant for changing explanations as Cain’s Achilles’ heel. “The comments that he made to Piers Morgan [on abortion], he had to walk that back and basically say what he meant to say. His comments on CNN about negotiating with terrorists, he had to walk that back. So he doesn’t want to develop a consistency for a pattern of these types of things, because that will continue to raise questions. You don’t want the voters going to caucuses with a lot of questions,” he says.
Cain must also resist the temptation to spin the accusations into a mainstream-media blame story, Iowa politicos warn. “I don’t think that flies,” says Robinson bluntly.
David Yepsen, a former Des Moines Register reporter who is now the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, says that while “[conservative] voters have no particular love for the media . . . this business of shooting the messenger just doesn’t pay long-term dividends for a candidate. It’s not going to go away.”
The timing is also delicate. “He’s at a very fragile time in his campaign. He’s starting to lift off,” Yepsen observes. “This is ice on his wings. He needs to get rid of this fast.”
Robinson also notes that the Iowa caucuses are just over two months away. “Herman Cain doesn’t have any record for voters to look at it. And when something like this comes up, it causes doubt. He’s got 62 days to soothe that doubt before the first people in this process vote. I don’t know if 62 days is long enough to calm people’s fears on who it is that they’re supporting.”
So far, however, Cain appears to be weathering the storm. The Des Moines Register called 20 likely Iowa GOP-caucus-goers yesterday and found that “none said the allegations had moved them to reject Cain as a potential pick.”
And Albrecht sees the unconventional nature of this cycle as a potential way for Cain to swat back this story. “I think this cycle has shown us that a week is an eternity,” he says, “so certainly there’s plenty of time.”