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Do Allegations of 13-Year Adulterous Affair Spell Doom for Herman Cain?

Sexual harassment may be ethically worse than adultery, but for evangelical voters, Herman Cain's alleged affair may be the greater sin.

Say what you will about Herman Cain, but he's a man with a history of beating the odds. He's not only survived Jim Crow and Stage 4 cancer, but succeeded in spite of them, by dint of wit, pluck and tenacity. In fact you might say, looking at his biography, that the only man with the temerity to defeat Herman Cain -- truly bring him low -- is Herman Cain. And at that, too, he now appears to have been a success.

Peruse the 10 Commandments, and you find no mention of sexual harassment. But there's a pretty clear injunction against adultery, which means, given the claims made yesterday by Georgia woman, Herman Cain's goose is probably cooked.

For a few weeks in October, Herman Cain -- Baptist minister, former lobbyist, former businessman, and former operative for David Koch's Americans for Prosperity -- was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Then, on a single day, two news outlets broke scandalous stories about the candidate: the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on some hanky-panky in the financing of Cain's campaign through a Koch-linked non-profit, and Politico ran an expose about settlements paid to two women who worked for Cain during his tenure as president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, allegedly for their silence after they complained of inappropriate sexual conduct by Cain.

While Cain's numbers held nationally in the polls for a time, they sank immediately upon the revelations of the settlements among a key group of voters: the Republican women of Iowa, the state whose caucuses kick off the presidential primary season -- and a state in which the evangelical Christian vote constitutes nearly the whole of the Republican base.

Only a Confessed Sinner Can Be Redeemed

If the women of Iowa were none too pleased with Herman Cain after allegations of sexual harassment were made against him, they're not likely to take well to Cain's latest sexual imbroglio -- allegations of an adulterous relationship that lasted for more than a decade. If Cain confessed to the affair and begged forgiveness, well, that might be another matter. To fall and be redeemed through forgiveness, that is the Christian story. Why, even Newt Gingrich, with his three marriages, two of them the end product of adulterous affairs, has been cleansed, thanks to a 2007 confession of sorts he made to Focus on the Family founder James Dobson on the good doctor's radio show.

But Cain denies everything -- first the harassment allegations, and now, an affair alleged by a woman who appears to have little to gain from the revelation. "I have never behaved inappropriately with anyone," Cain said during a debate sponsored by CNBC.

Ginger White, an Atlanta businesswoman, says she had no intention of stepping forward to talk of what she says was a 13-year affair with the GOP presidential contender.

“I'm not proud,” White told reporter Dale Russell of Atlanta's Fox 5 television station. “I didn't want to come out with this. I did not.”

But Fox 5 and other news outlets had received a tip about the affair (all from the same tipster, according to a report on the Fox 5 Web site), and reporters were beginning to sniff at her door. So, White said, she thought it best that she come forward on her own terms.

The Non-Denial Denial

Yet, while Cain told Atlanta's Fox 5 News that there was no affair, and told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he and Ginger White were merely friends, Cain's attorney, L. Lin Wood, chose more nuanced language, issuing what Woodward and Bernstein long ago described as a "non-denial denial." From Wood's statement, as posted on the Fox 5 Web site: