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Herman Cain's Base Ponders His Accusations


Now, listening to this news you may come away with an impression of Herman Cain beset by controversy and scandal. But at a Washington, D.C. conference hosted by the Conservative Americans for Prosperity group, Mr. Cain elicited a very different response. NPR's Andrea Seabrook has this report.

ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: Judging by this crowd, Herman Cain has taken conservatives by storm.

FREDERICK MCKINLEY: Mr. Cain is wonderful individual.

SEABROOK: Frederick McKinley from Jackson, Mississippi.

MCKINLEY: His message is simple, it's authentic and it's genuine.

MAX ROSS: We need a businessman to run this country, not a politician.

SEABROOK: Max Ross is a retired pilot from Fort Myers, Florida.

ROSS: I get tired of looking at people that I know what they're going to tell me before they open their mouths.

SEABROOK: Cain is refreshing, he says. Enthusiastic conservatives describe him with these words over and over again: authentic, fresh, real; all adjectives that draw a sharp contrast to the other front runner, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Now, a lot of conservative activists at this convention are in the Tea Party movement, or at least they support it. They're a little maverick, tired of conventional party politics, and so Mitt Romney may be well liked at other Republican events, but here, this is clearly not his crowd.

JASON HOYT: I'm not a big fan of Mitt Romney.

MCKINLEY: His message really doesn't resonate with me.

AL BARRY: Sometimes I feel like he's a little flip-floppy.

ALEX MARCHEK: He's not a strong conservative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not as conservative as he sounds now.

AUDRA MOORE: I think he's plastic.

CHARLIE CRITZ: I really think he's an opportunist.

JEAN ROSS: Too polished, everything is too precise, too in order.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's a little too much of a politician, too much spin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's just another career politician.

SEABROOK: That's Jason Hoyt, Frederick McKinley, Al Barry, Alex Marchek, Audra Moore, Charlie Critz, and Jean Ross. Most of them did say they'd support Romney if he wins the nomination. Of course, Cain has his own problems. This week, three separate accusations of sexual harassment have surfaced.

ALEXANDRIA PELOSI: That's something I don't really like hearing from a candidate that's running for president, whether it's true or not.

SEABROOK: Alexandria Pelosi works with the conservative group Concerned Women for America. The most important thing to her is a candidate's values. She says they should be impeccable, and the allegations against Cain have made her leery. That's why it's so important for him to quash this thing says another conference goer, Al Barry.

BARRY: He needs to get this behind him so he can move on.

SEABROOK: Barry says he's followed Cain's rise over the years, and he's a big supporter, but he's not happy with the way the candidate has handled the allegations so far.

BARRY: I'd like him too actually address the issue, shut it down, let his backers know I undeniably had nothing to do with these charges, God as my witness, you know. If he does that and swears on it, I'm with hm.

SEABROOK: It appears Cain's appeal among these staunch conservatives is unwavering, at least so far. As for regular voters, the kind that don't go to political action conferences, well, that's an entirely different demographic. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrea Seabrook
Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.