Herman Cain has been trying all week to deflect Politico's potentially devastating story about sexual harassment complaints that the GOP presidential hopeful faced more than a decade ago, but he seems to be making matters worse. After the story first broke late Sunday night, the GOP frontrunner's spokesman said Cain was only "vaguely familiar" with the entire episode. Then Cain said early Monday that he was aware of the allegations, but unaware of a financial settlement with one of the women. Then he contradicted himself hours later by estimating that his accuser received a settlement worth "two or three months'" salary. (Watch a video mashup of Cain's conflicting statements.) The candidate's confused response has commentators lining up to point out his errors. Here, five ways Cain blew it:
1. Cain's campaign squandered its advance warning
It's not like Cain's organization was broadsided by this story, say Michael Brendan Dougherty and Zeke Miller at Business Insider. Before publishing its expose, Politico gave the campaign 10 days' advance notice that it had uncovered the complaints from Cain's '90s tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association. But the campaign still did nothing to "quash the scandal." That only confirms that Cain's organization is "slow and disorganized," which is not going to impress conservatives looking for a candidate capable of beating President Obama in 2012.
2. His spokesman's initial response was horrible
Politico's story was a "thinly sourced hit piece," says Ed Driscoll at Pajamas Media. A good campaign spokesman would get in journalists' faces and "and punch back twice as hard," the way Bill Clinton did in 1992 to counter his "myriad bimbo eruptions." But Cain's campaign spokesman could only offer "pure dissembling that did nothing to stop his employer's potential hemorrhaging." His non-denial denial on Fox News on Sunday was "flat-out awful."
3. Cain didn't deny the charges quickly enough
There was enough meat to the Politico report to demand a serious response from Cain, says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. Yet when the candidate first addressed the charges himself, he didn't deny them outright. Nor did his campaign's official statement. Nor did his spokesman who appeared on Fox News. "The Associated Press eventually got a denial, but it wasn't an especially strong one," and it came way too late to prevent the matter from blowing up.
4. He sang
By the time Cain appeared at the National Press Club on Monday, he had to know he had a "full-fledged" scandal on his hands, says Evan McMorris-Santoro at Talking Points Memo. So it's odd that he chose that moment to sing for the crowd. And he sang "Amazing Grace" — "a hymn where he asked for forgiveness for his faults." Not a good choice.
5. Cain called his accusers liars
Once Cain finally got his story straight late Monday, says Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post, he insisted that he had been "falsely accused," and that an investigation proved the charges "to be baseless." That was an unnecessarily "dangerous tactic. It risks inflaming the women involved, who signed confidentiality agreements and have so far stayed silent." Why would he do anything that urges them to speak out?