Herman Cain denies changing his story

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain conveyed a range of emotions during a speech Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain denied on Tuesday that he is changing his story as he struggles to contain the fallout from sexual harassment allegations that could threaten his recently surging campaign.

Cain's contradictory explanations over two days have raised questions about details of the allegations from the 1990s and about his current ability to manage a crisis in the national spotlight.

The controversy, relating to his time as head of the National Restaurant Association, has surfaced just as he has risen in national polls in the GOP nomination fight two months before the leadoff Iowa caucuses.

His evolving answers to questions in a host of media interviews this week led at least one rival campaign to suggest that he is not being upfront about the accusations.

"If you are the front-runner and you plan to be the nominee ... be forthcoming so that you are vetted, and we don't get into a situation where you're our nominee and we find out things after the fact," John Brabender, a strategist for Rick Santorum's campaign, said at forum hosted by National Journal. "We're still waiting for clarification from the Cain campaign."

Will the allegations undermine Cain in Iowa and beyond? Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad was willing to hear the candidate out.

"Iowans are pretty fair-minded people, and just because somebody makes an accusation -- anybody that is in a high-profile position is potential to have people make these kinds of accusations," Branstad said. "I think Iowans will, you know, carefully look at the real situation and not jump to any conclusions."

And there was one indication that the controversy might not hurt Cain's support among the conservative Republicans who have been driving his bid -- his fundraising surged on Monday. Mark Block, his chief of staff, said the campaign raised as much as $250,000 in a day, and Cain said it was one of his best fundraising days ever.

Sign up for updates!

Get the latest political news from The Post and Courier in your inbox.

Over the past two days Cain has admitted that he knew of one agreement between the restaurant association and a woman who accused him of sexual harassment. He has said the woman initially asked for a large financial settlement but ultimately received two to three months' pay as part of a separation agreement.

He has said he is not aware of agreements or settlements with any other women, though Politico, which first disclosed the allegations, reported that the trade group had given settlements to at least two female employees who accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Beyond that, Cain has offered a series of sometimes-conflicting statements over what happened and didn't happen, and what he knew about financial payouts.

By Tuesday, Cain was chalking up the confusion to semantics, saying he was aware of an "agreement" but not a "settlement."