When we last saw celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, she was simulating anal sex with a Louisville Slugger while two pig-tailed elementary school-aged sisters looked on (and away) in bewilderment. Today, Allred appeared beside Sharon Bialek, who became the first woman to publicly accuse Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment.
Bialek was composed and clear in her recounting of how, in 1997, Cain made lewd and unwelcome advances toward her while the two were in a car in Washington, DC. According to Bialek, she had met with Cain because she had just been fired from the National Restaurant Association and thought that Cain, who was president of that trade and lobbying group, might be able to assist in her job search. Bialek said that after Cain surprised her by upgrading her hotel room, the two had dinner and drinks. Then Cain groped her thigh and went for the old push-down-the-head-to-the-crotch move. Bialek said she rejected these attempts by Cain, which led him to reply, “You want a job, right?” Could have been a pretty good campaign slogan in tough economic times, as this bumper sticker making its way around the Internet attests.
Consensus among political observers is that these disclosures of alleged inappropriate behavior–particularly Bialek’s charges because they put an actual face and story to the broader claims that Cain is a creep with women–will severely hurt and perhaps end Cain’s campaign. That may be true, but there is still no real evidence that Republican primary voters give a damn about these claims. If Cain plays his victim role right, he may find that the base of the G.O.P, to which he appeals and from which he enjoys so much support, might actually rally around him. Keep in mind that those writing Cain’s political obituary are people who almost certainly would not have supported him in the first place. They are also frequently among those who either didn’t have a big problem or rationalized similar alleged behavior from another southern candidate for the presidency (and later two-term president) who famously issued the classily seductive words, “Suck it” to an employee of the state he was governing.
If Rush and company turn on Cain, that will be a death knell. But so far that hasn’t happened. And Bialek–who joked with reporters about recently getting her hair done and was not exactly convincing in saying, “I really don’t want to be here today”–might be perceived as an opportunist, liar, or both. Cain may decide that all this isn’t worth it and drop out because it might jeopardize his chances of getting a show on Fox News, which may have been his intention from the beginning. But if Cain hangs in, his campaign could very well be surprisingly resilient. Resentment is a powerful motivator.
In related news, Mitt Romney continues to struggle breaking past 25% support according to polls of registered Republicans, despite repeatedly being dealt four aces. They don’t like him. They, really, really don’t like him.