On third thought: Cain still seems to think Curt Anderson is the leaker; Update: Time for another "vague new details emerge" update; Update: "It's a hatchet job," says former NRA chief

Via the Right Scoop. I’m picturing Mark Block, who kinda sorta cleared Anderson a few hours ago, smoking two at a time while listening to this. The most interesting bit comes near the end, when Cain retreats ever so slightly from his claim yesterday that he told Anderson about the harassment claims when Anderson worked for him in 2004. Now, he says, he’s “almost certain” that he told him. He does make a good point in noting that any political consultant worth his salt would have probed the candidate about skeletons in his closet in order to craft damage control in advance. But in that case, how come Cain’s current campaign advisors didn’t think to do that? No wonder some Republicans want Block out.

Meanwhile, at NRO, Fred Thompson is dropping dark hints or settling old scores. Or maybe both. Has Cain convicted the wrong campaign?

I have no idea who originated the story. But I’d say that looking inside the Republican family is probably a good bet. I speak from personal experience.

Days after I got into the presidential race in 2007, I was greeted with a website, “PhoneyFred.org,” described in the media at the time as an “anti Fred Thompson smear site.” You couldn’t really tell who was behind it, but we learned of it from the Democratic National Committee, which made ample use of it. We assumed that they had created it. However, a reporter at the Washington Post (of all people) decided to find out who was behind the site. After a lot of effort, she traced it to an executive of TTS Strategies, a South Carolina consulting firm run by J. Warren Tompkins, one of the most notorious hardball political operatives in the country…

In 2007, he was running Mitt Romney’s campaign in South Carolina, where Mitt was behind the rest of us in the polls. Of course, when confronted, both Tompkins and Mitt were “shocked” to learn that a rogue employee (who ran Tompkins’s office) was running such a website (out of the office), and the site was taken down immediately. One of the more benign and amusing things the site accused me of was being a “flip flopper.” I kid you not.

This doesn’t mean that Mitt is behind the Herman Cain hit piece. I’d like to think that he — and his extensive staff, many of them with training in the “political dark arts” — has learned that when you hire the meanest dog in the junkyard, it’s a little difficult to claim that you are surprised when he bites.

Translation: Maybe Romney’s cleaned up his act, but never doubt that he’s capable of this. But why would Romney want to take out Cain? He’s a godsend to him in sapping support from a more experienced, better funded conservative challenger.

Update: Can an alleged scandal about a presidential frontrunner be boring? It can if we’re in Day Five and still only getting secondhand breadcrumbs like this.

The woman in question, roughly 30 years old at the time and working in the National Restaurant Association’s government affairs division, told two people directly at the time that Cain made a sexual overture to her at one of the group’s events, according to the sources familiar with the incident. She was livid and lodged a verbal complaint with an NRA board member that same night, these sources said.

The woman told one of the sources Cain made a suggestion that she felt was overtly sexual in nature and that “she perceived that her job was at risk if she didn’t do it.”

She described it as an “unwanted sexual advance” to the other source. The woman took the matter immediately and directly to the board member because “she wanted this fixed,” the source said.

POLITICO has learned the accusation was also later brought to the attention of another board member as well as the restaurant association’s general counsel Peter Kilgore, both of whom are said to have looked into the matter. The woman, who now works in New Jersey, left the NRA in May 1998, shortly after the incident — under an agreement that paid her one-year’s salary, in the mid-$30,000s, sources said. The amount of the settlement was first reported by the New York Times.

They claim to have spoken to six different sources who are “familiar with aspects of the woman’s story,” whatever that means. If it’s true that she was made to think she’d be fired if she didn’t accept his come-on, that’s obviously serious — but even that’s being qualified with the caveat that she “perceived” that was the case. What did he actually say? How does this story crawl on past the weekend with details this vague?

Meanwhile, Cain’s raised $1.2 million since the story broke. At the rate we’re going, come December Politico will still be running airy pieces about what may or may not have happened, Cain will be at 50 percent against Romney, and he’ll have raised $20 million for the month.

Update: A ringing endorsement of Cain from the former chairman of the board at the NRA:

“The accusations? It’s a hatchet job, in my opinion,” Fassler told TheDC from his Phoenix, Ariz. office. “My gut tells me it’s a hatchet job. He gets a lead, he gets some traction, and the next thing you know, here come these allegations. It’s sad.”…

Asked why no complaint about Herman Cain ever reached the board, Fassler put the episode in perspective, essentially seeing the amount of money involved as small-potatoes…

“At the association, people had a level of authority — an amount of money that they can spend before they have to bring it to the board [for approval],” he explained. “In this case, if it was over their authority level — and I don’t remember what that level was — they would have to bring it to the executive committee [of the board].

“If it’s a routine matter, they don’t have to bring it to us. We never got it, so it was a routine matter.”

As the DC notes, that directly contradicts Politico’s claim about “urgent discussions of the woman’s accusations at top levels of the National Restaurant Association within hours of when the incident was alleged to have occurred.” Fassler also called Cain “thoroughly professional.”