This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 7, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARON BIALEK, CAIN ACCUSER: Instead of going into the offices, he sudd enly reached over and he put his hand on my leg, under my skirt, and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch. I was very, very surprised and very shocked. I said "What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend. This isn't what I came here for." Mr. Cain said "You want a job, right?" I asked him to stop and he did. I asked him to take me back to my hotel, which he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Sharon Bialek today and her attorney Gloria Allred at a news conference, called "he" in that allegation there, Herman Cain. The Cain campaign released a statement after the news conference saying in part, quote, "Activist celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred is bringing forth more false accusations against the character of Republican frontrunner Herman Cain. All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone." As you take a look at the latest poll, USA Today/Gallup poll just out, Herman Cain tied with Mitt Romney at the top spot. It is again November 2nd through the 6th. So it would include a number of days since this story has surfaced. What about this new wrinkle and the state of the race?
Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at large editor of National Review Online, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the presence of Gloria Allred doesn't help anyone's case. Nonetheless, this is a very serious charge. It's not sexual harassment. She wasn't an employee at the time. If true, it's kind of sexual assault, which is an order of magnitude worse.
Now, to be lawyerly about it, the corroboration is not quite as weak as presented. There are affidavits of people who said she spoke to them at the time. But she said she was too embarrassed to give any details. So she probably spoke about some kind of inappropriate behavior, which of course could have been anything. So we only have her word on the actual details of what occurred, her word against his word. This is a classic case, there are no witnesses and there's no way to adjudicate between them. The problem for Cain is it comes on top of several other accusations. And it also involves a woman who appears to have no motive other than coming out and telling what she thought had happened. There may be one, but it's not obvious. I think for Cain, this is going to something that he may not be able to actually shake.
BAIER: Mara, there are three other women allegedly. Two of them we know were paid settlements by the National Restaurant Association. We've confirmed that. There is another woman who spoke to the Associated Press but apparently did not lodge a complaint back in 1990's. This was on camera, on the record, obviously. Is this a different thing?
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes, this is a different thing because it's a real person coming forward and speaking publicly about it. I think what we have been waiting for all along is there a tipping point here? I mean, he does seems to have these poll numbers that defy gravity. They stayed up throughout all of this. And it's been quite a while now. But this is the first actual person. We also have seen his favorables coming down in some of the polls.
So I think that at some point, people start factoring this in to what they think about him as a potential candidate and they also start to think seriously about him as an actual nominee, not just I like him the best, he seems to be the most conservative, the most and refreshing, the most -- the most outsider candidate. I think soon that's gonna happen.
JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think that is right. I think in some ways, the damage that this does to Cain happens when the story actually goes away, because right now there is a major rallying around Cain. There are a lot of people who feel that the media is being unfair to him, that this is trumped up. There are all these comparisons to Clarence Thomas, which I think are strained.
And when they are in that mode of defending him as a cultural lightning rod that his poll numbers are gonna stay up. And it's only when they start refocusing on the election itself whether this puts him in a bad way actually going up against Obama, that the calculation changes and I think he gets hurt and eventually he just slowly siphons off support. His high poll numbers now seems to me, they're a ceiling. Before they might have been a floor he could build on. If you're not for Cain now, it very difficult to see how new people come to him.
BAIER: Although it does seem like at least the campaign is talking about fundraising going up and attention going up. And you just think there is a ceiling there when these allegations come out?
GOLDBERG: I do. Regardless of what all the merits of all this are, if they're true or not, a lot of he said, she said thing kind of thing, at the end of the day, Republicans, the one thing that unifies Republicans is the desire to beat Barack Obama. And right now, it's a cultural thing much like the rallying around Sarah Palin thing we've seen in the past. And once the story gets out of the press and people don't have to, sort of, do it as a voice of protest, I think he starts to bleed support.
BAIER: Speaking of that, Washington Post/ABC poll candidate with the best chance of defeating President Obama in the 2012 election, as you look at this, Mitt Romney at 33 percent, Herman Cain at 21 percent. There you see Perry, Gingrich at five percent. But interestingly, in the same poll just a month ago, Washington Post/ABC poll, most important to your vote, the candidate who agrees with you on the issues or a candidate most likely to win? And there you see 73 percent to 20 percent. So a bit of a mixed message there, Charles.
KRAUTHAMMER: I think that 20 percent will grow as Election Day approaches and as people really have to decide whether they want to take a risk. Michelle Bachmann is the one who put it best. We don't have to settle this time, meaning, we can go for ideological purity. We don't have to settle for a Romney, that's the obvious implications. But she also adds, she said in the debate, the outcome of this election is baked in the cake. Obama is one-term president.
That is an assumption that is entirely unwarranted. Obama could very well win this election. If you assume it's a lost election, of course you'd want to have the most ideological, congenial candidate. If you don't assume that, and you shouldn't, then you want to think about as a conservative as a Republican what is the cost of making a miscalculation and having a second Obama term?
BAIER: But yet, Mara, there still is, in every poll you look at, this vulnerability about Governor Romney, and on the conservative side, in particular, a want to find somebody else. Now is Newt Gingrich that person if Herman Cain drops down? Is there another rotation in the person who takes the --
LIASSON: Well, the problem is that we've been waiting for a long time to see who would emerge as the alternative to Romney. And various people have auditioned for the job but the glass slipper hasn't fit. And at this point, I really don't see who it would be. Maybe Rick Perry because he has the resources if he can somehow resurrect himself as a credible alternative to consolidate the conservative vote.
But I also think that, it could be that you know the old adage about Republicans, they don't fall in love, they fall in line. They're just waiting a while to fall in line and to get their heads wrapped around the idea that they might have wanted to go out on a date with Herman Cain or Rick Perry but they're gonna have to marry Mitt Romney in the end.
I just want to say one thing about the voting with your head versus your heart. When Obama looks so vulnerable, you do have the freedom to say, hey, I want it all. I want the perfect conservative. But in the end I think people do vote for who they person they think is gonna carry the election.
BAIER: I mean that is definitely not what the Gingrich camp and the Paul camp and the Bachmann camp and other camps are betting and the Perry camp, obviously. Newt Gingrich will be on "Center Seat" tomorrow here, answering questions. Jonah if you were to handicap this as you look at what is happening this week to Herman Cain, does it affect Iowa immediately?
GOLDBERG: Well, I mean look, the only thing in public life right now that's having a worse PR week is the Penn State athletic program, right? And I think -- it's interesting, colleagues of mine at National Review, were out talking to people in Iowa today, and this is helping him get support. There is a very strong sense that this is a sort of thumb in the eye to the east coast elite media and all of the rest. But I think the last 10 days before Iowa are so historically fluid and so potentially changing that a lot of this is just spinning wheels.
KRAUTHAMMER: It's clear that Romney's calculation is that it's not going to be Cain. Cain's numbers in Iowa are twice Perry's. But Romney is not running ads not against Cain but against Perry. He thinks he is the only one who's got a chance against him.
BAIER: Next up, will the super committee come up with an agreement that both parties can accept?
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