- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 15, 2011

WASHINGTON — In a matter of a week, Herman Cain referred to the House Democratic leader as “Princess Nancy” Pelosi, said presidential rival Michele Bachmann would be “tutti-frutti” ice cream and shrugged off a joke about Anita Hill.

The Republican presidential candidate also has denied allegations that he sexually harassed several women and, through his lawyer, threatened to investigate anyone else who makes such a claim.

Now, as Cain struggles to stabilize his campaign, the Republican presidential candidate is rolling out his wife to defend him — and help shore up female support for his bid for the GOP nomination.

“I know that’s not the person he is,” Gloria Cain said on Fox News Channel’s “On The Record.” ”He totally respects women.”

Her public foray into the presidential campaign after months of staying behind the scenes comes as polls show Herman Cain’s support among women dropping, further threatening a campaign rocked by accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain talks to reporters on Nov. 14, 2011, before greeting supporters at a fundraising event before an NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings in Green Bay, Wis. (Associated Press)
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain talks to reporters on Nov. 14, 2011, ... more >

Cain’s overall standing has slipped in surveys just weeks before the Iowa presidential caucuses that kick off the state-by-state voting for the Republican Party’s nomination; state and national polls show former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leading the pack, with Cain no longer challenging him for the top spot.

Polls released in recent days show unmistakably that female voters have turned away from Cain since the sexual harassment allegations surfaced at the end of October.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday shows nearly three-fourths of Republican women — 74 percent — now call the harassment charges against Cain serious, up from 39 percent earlier this month.

A CBS News poll conducted Nov. 6-10 shows his support among Republican women had dropped since late October, from 28 percent to 15 percent.

Credibility is a problem for Cain among women. A CNN/ORC International poll conducted Nov. 11-13 showed that majorities of all women said they tend to believe his accusers and would like to see him end the campaign. Majorities of men take the opposite position.

The polls are national in scope, meaning they’re hardly predictive of how Cain is faring in Iowa — the first state to weigh in on the GOP nomination fight on Jan. 3.

Even so, the findings of the national surveys raise questions about whether Cain, should he manage to win the nomination, would be able to compete for women’s votes against President Barack Obama in next year’s general election.

Women have made up a majority of voters in every presidential year since 1980, and while Democrats tend to win the group, successful Republicans have had to win or come close to splitting the vote among women in order to prevail.

In the 2008 presidential election, female eligible voters participated at a higher rate than males — 66 percent to 62 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Nearly 10 million more women cast ballots than men. And Obama won 56 percent of the female vote, the biggest margin among women a Democratic presidential candidate has had since exit polling began in 1972.

Cain has repeatedly denied the allegations of sexual harassment, though they aren’t going away.

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