Cain Sends Mixed Messages to Supporters in New Hampshire

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Brian Snyder / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain shakes hands with a supporter in his campaign headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire, Nov. 30, 2011.

Manchester, New Hampshire

Ned Hunter, 52, was the sixth person to sign up to volunteer for Herman Cain’s campaign in New Hampshire. “I remember seeing the sheet, all brand new,” he recalled. But in the last month, with all of the accusations of misconduct swirling around Cain – first charges of sexual harassment and then a woman who alleged a 13-year affair with the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO – Hunter has begun to question his support.

“I came tonight to hear him answer questions about the allegations,” said Hunter, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the academy’s New Hampshire state director. Hunter was waiting for Cain to arrive at the campaign’s Manchester headquarters for a rally with volunteers Wednesday night. “Any commander in chief has to have honor and integrity. I want to look him in the eye.”

Cain arrived 10 minutes late to the second floor headquarters, above a Brazilian restaurant called Gaucho, and greeted the crowd of 75 – including at least 20 members of the press — before speaking briefly. “A few of our warm weather supporters have, you know, gotten off the Cain train,” Cain told the crowd. “But the good news is many of our solid supporters are still on and once we clear up this most recent accusation, I think a lot of people are going to see it for what it’s worth…. As Yogi Berra said, ‘It’s not over till it’s over.’”

Cain said that though he’d spoken to his wife by phone, he wants to sit down and discuss the matter face-to-face with her when he get as home on Friday before making any decisions. In the meantime, he said, his campaign is “reassessing.” He acknowledged that fundraising plummeted Monday, the day 46-year-old single mother of two Ginger White went on the record alleging a long-term affair with Cain, but he said that donations have since picked back up. Still, when asked if he would be rolling out his campaign’s third pillar – after introducing his 9-9-9 economic plan three weeks ago and his foreign policy platform on Monday night, Cain was due to unveil his energy program in the coming weeks – he said he wasn’t sure if he’d still be in the race. “We’ll see,” he told reporters in Manchester.

For many of his New Hampshire backers, the accusations haven’t affected their support. “Thank you for staying on,” one man told Cain, shaking his hand at the Manchester event. “You do what you have to do and I’m going to support you,” said another. Enveloping Cain, volunteer Nancy Kidler declared, “You give me a hug, Let’s start some rumors going.” Cain just laughed.

Still, Cain’s disjointed approach to addressing the accusations – at once saying it’s not over and at the same time saying he needs to reassess – caused some supporters to pause. “The bomb bay doors are either open or closed; you can’t have it in the middle,” Hunter said after the event. “I’m disappointed…. I’ve made a pledge and I’ll follow through, but I don’t know that I’ll vote for him.”