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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The sound of crickets as some of Herman Cain's top Fla supporters are asked about harassment charges



Florida launched Herman Cain into the top tier of the Republican presidential race with the Presidency 5 straw poll and was among the first states where his campaign put together a serious campaign operation with top tier political professionals and opinion leaders.


But the silence has been deafening from some of the Cain statewide campaign leaders we've reached out to for response to the assorted sexual harassment allegations swirling around Cain.

"Obviously he's got some challenges he's working through right now. He made a good start with that last night,'' statewide co-chairman Rick Baker of St. Petersburg said this morning after ignoring multiple messages yesterday. Asked several times if he remain 100 percent behind Cain, Baker repeatedly demurred: "I've made my comments."

Former Jeb Bush chief of staff Kathleen Shanahan has also remained mostly mute on the topic. "Florida support remains strong," was all she said in an email last night. So far she has not said how she views the harassment allegations. This afternoon Shanahan declined to discuss the allegations, but said she remains committed to Cain.

"It's not my job to address those allegations,'' Shanahan said. "My mission is to work with Cain to win Florida. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has left Cain."

State Rep. Scott Plakon, another statewide chairman from Longwood, stressed that he is "100 to 110 percent" behind Cain.

"This creates a bit of a headwind, but but what I think some may be underestimating is the enthusiasm of a lot of of supporters because he's a guy who has the possibility of really shaking things up in Washington," Plakon said. "Based on what' s in the public domain so far .. it would be unfortunate for these (accusations) to be something that would remove him from the race...I'm hoping the press will really drill down into the backgrounds and motivations of the two accusers."

Former state Sen. Carey Baker, another statewide co-chairman, said he and other supporters aren't buying the allegations to date, but he's not sure about how the controversy is influencing potential Cain supporters.

"It's a little early to tell whether people are conservative but not committed to any of the Romney alternatives will gravitate toward Cain or take a wait and see approach," said Orlando attorney Ben Newman. "People who consider themselves to be principled conservatives like a lot of things about Herman Cain. The question remains whether this give them a level of discomfort that they wont be able to pull a lever for him. My hope is as this goes on, this will be in our rear view mirror."

Cain's state finance chairman, Tampa Lawyer Martin Garcia, has not responded to a request for comment, but through a campaign spokesman said everything is fine with the campaign.

"What proves the mettle of a candidate is not when things are going well but when things are tough,'' said Bill Diamond, a Cain supporter and fundraiser in Palm Beach. "If he can get over this, he has a very good chance of getting the nomination becoming the president."


[Last modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 4:36pm]


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