"It's one of the he-said-she-said stories," said GOP strategist Greg Mueller. "But you want to put the story to rest as quickly as you can and let the voters decide. It seems like every day it's a new elevation of the story. Either that's going to peter out or it's going to solidify."
If that happens, it completely overshadows the GOP's message against President Barack Obama.
"We were talking about the role of government and how it's gone too far. We were putting some conservative principles on the table. That's when Republicans do well, when there is a clear line of distinction."
There will be more from Cain on Thursday, when his tour will take him at least to Ypsilanti, Grand Rapids and Traverse City, according to tea party organizers. Tea party backers make up the core of support for Cain, a former pizza executive and self-styled political outsider. And many have said in recent weeks that they do not give credence to the charges against Cain.
Four women have said Cain sexually harassed them in the 1990s when he was at the helm of the National Restaurant Association. Two have come forward publicly, including one who had filed a sex harassment claim.
Mention of the scandal at Wednesday night drew loud boos from the crowd. Cain brushed aside the allegations saying they'd helped boost his fundraising,
And fellow Republican front-runner Mitt Romney declined to take the bait and criticize Cain at the forum even though in a previous interview he'd called the allegations "particularly disturbing."
Still, even as he faced allegations of unwanted sexual advances against women, Cain stumbled on Wednesday night by mocking the first female House speaker Nancy Pelosi as "Princess Nancy."
During the CNBC debate, Cain said Pelosi — now House minority leader — blocked any effort when she was speaker of the House to repeal Democrats' health care overhaul, legislation she helped marshal through.
After the debate, he told CNBC he "probably should not have made" that comment.
Philip Elliott in Washington and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa contributed to this report. McCaffrey reported from Atlanta.
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