Herman Cain told aides Tuesday he is assessing whether the latest allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against him "create too much of a cloud" for his Republican presidential candidacy to go forward.
Acknowledging the "firestorm" arising from an accusation of infidelity, Cain only committed to keeping his campaign schedule for the next several days, in a conference call with his senior staff.
"If a decision is made, different than to plow ahead, you all will be the first to know," he said, according to a transcript of the call made by the National Review, which listened to the conversation.
It was the first time doubts about Cain's continued candidacy had surfaced from the candidate himself. As recently as Tuesday morning, a campaign spokesman had stated unequivocally that Cain would not quit.
Cain denied anew that he had an extramarital affair with a Georgia woman who went public a day earlier with allegations they had been intimate for 13 years.
"It was just a friendship relationship," he said on the call, according to the transcript. "That being said, obviously, this is a cause for reassessment."
He went on: "With this latest one, we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people's minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth."
Saying the episode had taken an emotional toll on him and his family, Cain told the aides that people will have to decide whether they believe him or the accuser. "That's why we're going to give it time, to see what type of response we get from our supporters."
“He has denied that he was ever involved in a 13-year long physical relationship with Ms. White and I believe Herman Cain,” Cain attorney Lin Wood told Channel 2's Mark Winne.
“Does she have anything to gain here? I don't know. I think she has a lot to lose...There's no book deal in the offing, there's nothing in the offing,” White’s attorney Ed Buckley told Winne.
Winne asked Buckley, "Do you know if she would be happy if his campaign were scuttled over this?"
"I don’t think so. I don’t think she’s—no. I really don’t think that’s something that she’s really considered," Buckley answered.
Cain has denied the affair as well as several other accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior that have dogged his candidacy over the past month. He had been publicly resolute about pressing ahead even as his standing in public opinion polls and his fundraising started to slide.
But in the conference call, he pledged only to keep his imminent schedule, including a foreign policy speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan later Tuesday that he promised to deliver with "vim, vigor and enthusiasm."
One participant on the call, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the conversation, described the tone as positive but also noted the uncertainty coming from Cain.
Other candidates are saying little about the situation. Republican candidate Rick Santorum spoke exclusively with Channel 2's Lori Geary at a campaign event in Gwinnett County.
"We know how hard it is to be under the scrutiny and to have things said about you that are less than kind," Santorum said. Santorum would not give Cain advice but told Geary he would pray for his opponent.
"Let's wait and see what Herman decides to do. It's obviously a very troubling allegation, very troubling situation surrounding his campaign," Santorum said.
The cofounder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots told Geary that Cain has lost the support of his conservative base. "If this is the way he handles a crisis, how is he going to handle running against President Barack Obama and the political machine," Dooley said.
Ralph Reed once ran for lieutenant governor in Georgia and now heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Reed said he would like Cain to remain in the race but he respects any decision the candidate makes.
"Don't try and freeze fram the race where it is today and suggest that's where it is a month from now. There are always surprises," Reed told Geary.