It’s no secret that presidential candidate Herman Cain has been accused of sexual harassment. Recent allegations from four women have catapulted Cain into the media spotlight just as the Republican presidential campaigns have begun to speed up.
“It’s fair to say few people expected him to be a top-tier candidate,” said Rachel Caufield, associate professor of politics and international relations. “If you ask the average person who Cain is, they’d say 9-9-9 (plan), sexual harassment and Godfather’s pizza. As a candidate, you want those aspects to be something more substantive.”
Though the allegations have yet to be proven, many students find the situation troubling. Sophomore law, politics and society major Samantha Kenison said the scandal wasn’t shocking to her but still upsetting.
“The scandal drew attention to how he treats women,” Kenison said. “Especially after the Anita Hill joke and the ‘Princess Nancy’ comment, I realized how much of a misogynist he is. He’s also attacking the women who are accusing him of sexual harassment, which is extremely unprofessional and rather disgusting.”
Kenison said she has liberal views on social issues, so she wasn’t a fan of Cain or any of the other Republican candidates to begin with.
“To be honest, none of the candidates who are anywhere near winning the nomination deserve it,” she said.
Sophomore international business major Eric Baker is an intern for the Republican Party of Iowa. Baker said he can’t give personal opinions about which candidates he supports. However, he did say that the Cain situation has been heavily discussed.
“(Cain has) taken this path where he won’t answer questions,” Baker said. “I think it’s a poor move on his part, and it’s insulting to the American people.”
Though Baker said he feels that Cain has handled the issue in an unprofessional manner, he also said the timing must be considered.
“The fact that this scandal comes at a time in the campaign when his numbers have sustained at such a high level is really interesting,” Baker said.
Baker also wonders why the allegations are only coming out now, when several occurred over 10 years ago.
“Anytime there is something like this, it should be taken with a grain of salt,” he said. “Who knows if these women have personal vendettas against him? It is a sexual harassment charge though, so it should be taken seriously.”
Cain’s numbers have remained surprisingly constant amidst the scandal, both Baker and Caufield pointed out.
“If anything, he’s gotten more popular,” Caufield said. “He has some good people around him. Not even staff, but just supporters that have been effective.”
Baker agreed that the scandal hasn’t seemed to impact his popularity with voters.
“Allegations have been out for two weeks,” Baker said. “Poll numbers have stayed constant, and donations have gone up dramatically. It’s really energized his base of supporters.”
With consistent numbers, the future for Cain seems fair; however, the race is far from over.
“This has been an incredibly odd campaign cycle,” Caufield said. “It’s kind of astounding how the dynamics have changed.”
Caufield said she believes Mitt Romney will benefit from the scandal.
“He just sits right there at second place,” Caufield said. “He’s a presumptive frontrunner, and if you are Mitt Romney, that’s exactly where you want to be.”
The Iowa caucus is only six weeks away, but Caufield said it would be difficult to tell how this scandal will affect the outcome because voters are still making up their minds.
Kenison said that voters should consider the allegations when making their decisions because of the seriousness of the issue and how it could affect leadership in America.
“I would feel kind of disgusted if someone who mistreats and demeans women like that is still able to win a presidential nomination,” Kenison said. “On the other hand, the race would essentially be between two people of a racial minority, which speaks to how far racial equality has come. Too bad it means that women’s equality has a long ways to go.”