Herman Cain On Defense

The campaign trail focuses today on Washington, D.C. for Republican candidate Herman Cain, as he speaks on his 9-9-9 plan to a conservative think tank and then takes questions in a gathering at the National Press Club even as his campaign is denying a report that Cain had been accused of “inappropriate behavior” by two women who worked with him in the 1990’s.

“Dredging up thinly sourced allegations stemming from Mr. Cain’s tenure as the Chief Executive Officer at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, political trade press are now casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts,” said a statement from Cain’s spokesman, as Cain’s camp last night took a page from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“Sadly, we’ve seen this movie played out before – a prominent Conservative targeted by liberals simply because they disagree with his politics,” said the Sunday night statement.

Whether Cain will further elaborate on the issue Monday is unclear, and other than being in New York City, Cain’s schedule couldn’t have him in a much worse place, as political reporters and the major TV networks won’t have to go far to track down the surging Republican candidate when he goes today to the American Enterprise Institute and then to the Press Club.

We may get to see how his staff does with a major league story.

Cain’s appearance in the District of Columbia comes a few days after his chief spokesman indicated that it was time for Cain to “slow down a little,” though his schedule the last few days has been anything but slow, as Cain stumped for votes in Alabama for two days and was in Washington on Sunday to do Face the Nation on CBS.

On that program, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer zeroed in on Cain over two main issues, trying to flesh out Cain’s stance on abortion and serious questions about a Cain campaign video that went viral in recent days.

“So in other words you would not even believe in abortion if rape, incest or the health of the mother was involved?” asked Schieffer.

“Correct, that’s my position,” Cain answered, again trying to make clear what he believes in on abortion, which has not seemed so clear in various interviews over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, Schieffer also gave Cain a hard time about the campaign video released last week with a top Cain aide who was shown smoking; the normally folksy and affable Schieffer clearly wasn’t in the mood for any video making light of cigarette smoking.

“So it is not a cool thing to do?” Schieffer asked?

“It is not a cool thing to do and that’s not what it was trying to say,” Cain said, as he deflected Schieffer’s questions about whether the ad should be pulled off the Cain campaign website.

“Young people of America, all people, do not smoke,” said Cain. “It is hazardous and dangerous to your health, don’t smoke. I’ve never smoked and I have encouraged people not to smoke.”

Cain’s appearance in the nation’s capital comes as the latest poll in Iowa shows the Georgia businessman running neck and neck with Mitt Romney in the Hawkeye State.

Last week, Romney was here meeting with GOP lawmakers in the Congress, securing the support of a number of Congressional Republicans.

I asked one why he was backing Romney.

“Why? He’s going to be the next President,” was the succinct reply.

There are nine weeks and one day left until the caucuses in Iowa.  We’ll know by late Monday just how long a day this has been for Team Cain.