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ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03: Herman Cain announces that he is suspending his campaign as a Republican presidential candidate as his wife Gloria Cain looks on during the scheduled opening of a local campaign headquarters on December 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Cain had taken time to reassess the condition of his campaign "because of all this media firestorm stuff," adding, "my wife and family comes first." (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Herman Cain said Saturday that he is suspending his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, choosing to end his campaign after weathering weeks of scrutiny over alleged sexual misconduct and accusations of an extramarital affair.
"As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign," Cain said at an appearance outside his campaign headquarters in Atlanta. "I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt caused on me and my family. Not because we are not fighters."
Cain said he's launching a "plan B" of his public career, a new policy-oriented website called TheCainSolutions.com. He said he will endorse a Republican candidate for president "in the near future." His announcement could lead to the effective end to his campaign, but technically leaves open the option of reviving his bid for the presidency.
"I am not going to be silenced, and I am not going away," he defiantly told disappointed supporters.
Cain's announcement nodded to the continued scrutiny that's surrounded his campaign since a media storm that began on Oct. 31, when POLITICO reported that the National Restaurant Association had settled sexual harassment claims brought by two women against Cain. The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO steadfastly denied the allegations, even as other women – some anonymously – emerged to make similar allegations against Cain. “The charges and the accusations I absolutely reject. They simply didn't happen. They simply did not happen,” the candidate said at a Nov. 8 press conference after Sharon Bialek, a former restaurant association official, publicly detailed harassment claims against Cain.
“As far as these accusations causing me to back off and maybe withdraw from this presidential primary race … ain’t gonna happen,” declared Cain during that address.
On Nov. 28, an Atlanta woman told a FOX affiliate that she had engaged in a 13-year-long affair with Cain. Ginger White said their relationship had ended only recently, when Cain started to pursue the GOP nomination. Her claims took on an added degree of gravity after Cain acknowledged sending money, without his wife’s knowledge, to White. He maintained the two were merely friends, and had never engaged in a romantic relationship.
Those allegations prompted Cain, who had defiantly pledged to stay in the race and had continually denied any wrongdoing, to take a breath and reflect on the direction of his campaign. He told senior staff on Tuesday that he was taking time to “reassess.” During that “reassessment” period, Cain and his top staffers sent mixed messages about whether that meant the candidate would drop out. The Cain camp then revealed a Friday meeting between the candidate and his wife, Gloria, the first since White made her allegations.
Ahead of that meeting, Cain made this statement during a campaign stop: “Tomorrow in Atlanta I will be making an announcement. But nobody’s gonna get me to make that prematurely … Tomorrow we will be opening our headquarters in northwest Georgia where we will also clarify – there’s that word again, clarify – exactly what the next steps are.”
Cain's wife appeared with him at the announcement, receiving chants of "Glo-ri-a!" from the crowd. Herman Cain said he was "at peace" with his wife, his family, and himself.
"I have made many mistakes in life -- everybody has. I made mistakes professionally, personally, as a candidate, in terms of how I run my campaign. And I take responsibility or the mistakes that I have made," he said. "But because of these false and unproved accusations, it has … had a tremendous painful price on my family."
Cain spoke of his campaign mostly in the past tense throughout his speech, lashing out at the media for fueling the frenzy that became associated with his campaign.
Cain’s decision to abandon his campaign marks a somewhat remarkable reversal of fortunes for what was, by all accounts, an unconventional campaign. Having never been previously elected to office, Cain surged to prominence in a fluid GOP primary season in part due to the strength of his “9-9-9” economic plan. The plan, which calls for a nine percent national sales tax along with nine percent flat taxes on personal and corporate income, became the cornerstone of his campaign.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s stumbles in Republican debates this fall helped create an opening for Cain, who ascended to nominal frontrunner status by mid-October, when an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found him leading the Republican field nationally, as the choice of 27 percent of Republicans. Cain’s national success appeared to translate to key primary states, too; a late October Iowa Poll conducted by the Des Moines Register found Cain vying for the lead in the state’s caucuses. (By comparison, a late November poll conducted for the Register found Cain’s support had plummeted to eight percent.)
Cain’s rise had seemingly defied conventional political wisdom, considering the unusual way in which he managed his campaign. The candidate spent little time in traditional primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Instead, Cain traveled across the U.S., making stops in states like Wisconsin or Ohio, which don’t host meaningful primary contests. And Cain’s decision to effectively put his campaign on hold this fall to pursue a book tour in the thick of the campaign raised eyebrows among political observers.
During those trips, Cain committed other errors that contributed to rising doubts about the viability of his campaign. Iowa Rep. Steve King, an influential conservative in his state's Jan. 3 caucus, expressed that sentiment on Twitter: "Virtuous or not, declaring in or out, however we feel for him, Herman Cain's campaign is over."
Cain had rather cavalierly said that he didn’t feel the need to understand the intricacies of foreign policy. (“We need a leader, not a reader,” he declared at a mid-November campaign stop.) One particular meeting, with the editors of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, helped cement growing concerns about Cain when he awkwardly stumbled for an answer to a question about how he would assess President Barack Obama’s policy toward Libya.
"President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of (Moammar) Gadhafi. I just wanted to make sure we're talking about the same thing before I say, 'Yes, I agreed' or 'No I didn't agree,'" he said, before stopping himself and reconsidering his answer.
"I got all this stuff twirling around in my head," he explained.
This post was last updated at 2:14 p.m.