Rick Osentoski, Associated Press
ATLANTA — Herman Cain told aides Tuesday he is assessing whether the latest allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against him "create too much of a cloud" for his Republican presidential candidacy to go forward.
Acknowledging the "firestorm" arising from an accusation of infidelity, Cain only committed to keeping his campaign schedule for the next several days, in a conference call with his senior staff.
"If a decision is made, different than to plow ahead, you all will be the first to know," he said, according to a transcript of the call made by the National Review, which listened to the conversation.
It was the first time doubts about Cain's continued candidacy had surfaced from the candidate himself. As recently as Tuesday morning, a campaign spokesman had stated unequivocally that Cain would not quit.
Cain denied anew that he had an extramarital affair with a Georgia woman who went public a day earlier with allegations they had been intimate for 13 years.
"It was just a friendship relationship," he said on the call, according to the transcript. "That being said, obviously, this is a cause for reassessment."
He went on: "With this latest one, we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people's minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth."
Saying the episode had taken an emotional toll on him and his family, Cain told the aides that people will have to decide whether they believe him or the accuser. "That's why we're going to give it time, to see what type of response we get from our supporters."
Ginger White's accusation of an affair prompted New Hampshire state Rep. William Panek, who endorsed Cain at a news conference earlier this year, to pull his endorsement and instead support former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the upcoming primary. Panek said he rethought his position when White showed evidence that she traded 61 text messages and cell phone calls with the candidate.
"I felt like we were being lied to," Panek said. "I'm putting my name in New Hampshire as a state rep behind him and I just didn't like the way it was being played out."
In Iowa, Cain's campaign has lost some precinct-level supporters in light of the new allegations, Steve Grubbs, Cain's Iowa chairman, said during an interview with CNN.
Cain was in Iowa for a day last week to film a new ad, but spending to air it was on hold pending the fundraising in the days to come, Grubbs said.
"If people make contributions, then we'll keep the campaign doors open and be able to keep paying people," Grubbs said. "Otherwise, Herman Cain will have to make a decision whether he can afford to keep moving forward."
Cain has denied the affair as well as several other accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior that have dogged his candidacy over the past month. He had been publicly resolute about pressing ahead even as his standing in public opinion polls and his fundraising started to slide.
But in the conference call, he pledged only to keep his imminent schedule, including a foreign policy speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan later Tuesday that he promised to deliver with "vim, vigor and enthusiasm."
Speaking to nearly 1,000 people at Hillsdale, a conservative bastion, Cain didn't address the affair allegation. He stuck to his plan to present his foreign policy vision, one in which the U.S. would stand by friendly nations such as Israel, quit giving money to countries he considered enemies, and spend more on defense.
"Rather than the current philosophy of cut, cut, cut, I believe our philosophy should be invest, invest, invest," he said. "I happen to believe that we have allowed our military to get too weak."
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