At what was meant to be the grand opening of his campaign headquarters, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain on Saturday announced he is suspending his campaign for the Republican nomination. “As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign,” he said. With his wife Gloria standing behind him, a defiant Cain told a crowd of supporters that “the continued distraction, the continued hurt caused on me and my family” by allegations of sexual misconduct and a lack of “the necessary funds to be competitive” precipitated his departure from the race.
He also pointed a finger at the media, blaming the proliferation of “false accusations” on reporters and the political establishment. “That spin hurts,” he said. “It hurts my wife, it hurts my family, it hurts me and it hurts the American people because you are being denied solutions to our problems.” Cain continued to deny any wrongdoing, saying “I am at peace with my God, I am at peace with my wife, and she is at peace with me” to chants of “Gloria! Gloria!” from the crowd.
Cain’s announcement comes less than a week after a woman came forward alleging a 13-year romantic relationship with the candidate. Conservatives rallied around him after two accusations of workplace sexual harassment emerged in October– both incidents were more than 15 years old. But when Ginger White, an acknowledged “friend” of the candidate’s, told an Atlanta television station that the two had carried on a prolonged affair, Republicans began to call for Cain to step aside. Rep. Allen West, president of the House Republican freshman class, called Cain a “distractor” and said he should “move on.” The media spent much of the last week speculating on his intentions.
Cain had said last Tuesday that he would pause to reassess his bid, but would make no decisions until he’d spoken face-to-face with his wife of 43 years, Gloria. Oddly, Cain did not head straight home, but kept his regular campaign schedule, not arriving home to Atlanta until Friday night. She appeared beside him on Saturday, but did not speak.
Even before his announcement, Cain’s run was more or less finished. “Virtuous or not, declaring in or out, however we feel for him, Herman Cain’s campaign is over,” influential Iowa Rep. Steve King tweeted shortly before Cain’s announcement. “I thank him as a friend and wish him well.” A new Des Moines Register poll released Saturday found his support in that key early state had plummeted to 8%. And Cain himself said fundraising dropped precipitously the day White’s story broke.
Cain’s candidacy was never traditional: He vowed to keep Muslims out of his cabinet, cut a commercial featuring his campaign manager Mark Block blowing smoke into the camera, and kept an unusual itinerary. Cain eschewed time in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early primary states for stops, in the last two weeks alone, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. All the while, he hawked his book, This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House.
Republican primary voters found inspiration in his magnetism and plainspokenness rocketing him to the top of the polls. One big appeal: Cain has never served in public office but has an American dream success story in the private sector. His business plan – 9-9-9 was the heart of simplicity, as was his foreign policy: peace through strength and clarity. On Saturday, he pledged to continue to aggressively promote both those things through a new website, noting that “becoming President was plan A.”
Cain’s business success came from his strength as a marketer. He used that genius to great effect in his meteoric rise in the polls. Brand marketing only helped on the way up though. When faced with a series of damaging accusations, Cain sorely lacked political and crisis experience – fatally so.
But like fellow political-media celebrity Donald Trump, who is slated to moderate a GOP debate in late December, the end of Cain’s campaign doesn’t mean he’ll flee the klieg lights. Cain promised to announce an endorsement in the primary race “in the near future” and couldn’t resist plugging his new website “TheCainSolutions.com” before leaving the stage. “Here’s the good news,” he said Saturday in Atlanta. “The pundits would like for me to shut up, drop out…. I am not going to be silenced and I am not going away.”