Cain resolutely made the announcement at a rally in Atlanta. He promised that he “would not go away,” despite his decision to withdraw from the GOP race for the White House.
There is no secret as to what brought the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO to this point. For weeks, the outspoken businessman turned presidential hopeful has been dogged by accusations of sexual harassment and (more recently) a long-term extramarital affair.
Wearing sunglasses and with his wife in the background, Herman Cain stood at a podium in front of a crowd of chanting supporters. The site of the appearance was that of the building that was to be his national campaign headquarters. Quieting the crowd, Cain spoke words whose tone and topic is one familiar to followers of presidential politics.
“As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul-searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign. Because of the continued distractions, the continued hurt caused on me and my family, not because we are not fighters. Not because I’m not a fighter.”
Although the purpose of the proclamation was tragedy and not triumph, a savvy understanding of campaign finance law informed the choice of words Cain used in describing the current status of his campaign. The verb of choice was “suspended,” and it was well-chosen. According to applicable laws governing the funding of campaigns, a candidate who suspends his campaign may continue to accept donations to the campaign, thus paying off debts already incurred and funding any future resumption of his campaign or the beginning of any other related venture.
Reports out of Iowa indicate that the allegations of inappropriate conduct on the part of Cain have seriously deflated his once-praiseworthy poll numbers.
In fact, the Des Moines Register published a poll showing Cain garnering just 8 percent of the vote. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich seems to be benefiting from Cain’s precipitous descent, registering the backing of 25% of likely Republican voters. Ron Paul was a close second with 18%, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with 16%.
Into the vacuum left by the departure of Herman Cain, his erstwhile competitors will undoubtedly begin their courting of Cain’s cadre of supporters. The New York Times quotes Mitt Romney on this very issue. Said Romney: “I don’t think people have really settled down in a final way to decide who they’re going to support in the nomination process. I hope they give us a good careful look.”
One candidate who might see his army of backers swell with Cain recruits is Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas).
In a message posted on the HermanCainForums.com, the site’s administrator announced his intention to switch allegiance to the Paul presidential campaign. The administrator, using the username “Constitution,” wrote:
Now that Herman Cain has dropped out of the race my new candidate is..... Congressman Ron Paul.
Ron Paul was the only candidate that actually had remorse for how the media treated Herman Cain and the alleged affairs, I will always thank him for showing resptect [sic] in that nauture, [sic] with that said.
It’s too soon to know behind whom Cain will throw the weight of his endorsement. In his announcement Saturday, however, he did indicate that he would make such a decision “in the near future” and that “the current occupant of the White House” would not be the beneficiary thereof.
Cain did address the issue of the accusations of sexual harassment brought against him by four former employees. At the time of the alleged misconduct, Cain was the president of the National Restaurant Association.
After admitting that he had “made mistakes,” Cain mentioned the rumors of inappropriate behavior.
These false and unproved allegations continue to be spun in the media and in the court of public opinion so as to create a cloud of doubt over me and this campaign and my family.
Here's why it hurts. Because my wife, my family and I — we know that those false and unproved allegations are not true!... I am at peace with my God. I am at peace with my wife. And she is at peace with me. And I am at peace with my family, and I am at peace with myself.
Next, Cain told supporters that there was good news and bad news. The bad news was the suspension of his campaign and the abandonment of Plan A (the presidency). The good news was the imminent initiation of Plan B, a tour of America promoting his ideas for fixing the country. As Cain explained it:
Plan B is that I will continue to be a force for the people. That's why today we are launching TheCainSolutions.com, where the people will choose — not the media, not the politicians — and the people will show that the people are still in charge of this country.
Herman Cain may claim to be enthusiastic about moving on to Plan B, but once it seemed that the successful execution of Plan A might actually have been possible.
Cain is not a career politician and in fact he has never held elective office. He was a businessman and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He has a captivating personality and a cadence that infused his speeches with energy and did likewise to listeners.
As was the case with another son of a working man made good — John Edwards — Cain’s candidacy for the presidency was ultimately scuttled not only by the multiple claims of harassment and adultery, but by the combination of those allegations and the fact that the candidate traded on his status as a churchgoing family man.
In a piece detailing the rise and fall of Herman Cain, the New York Times provided a brief sketch of the women who have charged Cain with sexual harassment.
A Chicago woman, Sharon Bialek, was the first to come forward publicly. Ms. Bialek said that Mr. Cain made an unwanted and rough physical advance on her 14 years ago when he was the chief of the National Restaurant Association, a lobbying group. After taking her out for a night on the town in Washington, she said, he suggested she engage with him sexually in return for his assistance in finding a job.
Within days, a second woman came forward. That woman, Karen Kraushaar, 55, worked in the government affairs office of the restaurant association for a relatively short time from 1998 to 1999, her tenure being cut short, she said, by her run-ins with Mr. Cain and the discomfort it created for her.
Two other women who complained of harassment by Mr. Cain remained anonymous. But one of those women and Ms. Kraushaar both received the equivalent of a year’s salary in settlements from the restaurant group.
Finally, there was the story reported by the influential New Hampshire daily, the Union Leader, that Cain had paid money to a woman claiming to have carried on a long-term extramarital affair with the candidate. Ginger White, the woman at the center of the controversy, reportedly received monthly payments from Cain to help her with “month to month bills and expenses.”
Cain admits to helping the woman financially, although such aid was made without his wife’s knowledge, he asserts.
Cain ended his remarks by encouraging supporters to continue to “put ‘united’ back in the United States of America....”
In the days remaining before the New Hampshire primary, it will be interesting to see which GOP hopeful the former passengers on the “Cain Train” will unite behind.
Photo of Herman Cain: AP Images