Herman Cain Suspends Presidential Campaign
We won't have Herman Cain to kick around anymore.
After a morning of speculation, Herman Cain appeared at what was intended to be his Georgia campaign headquarters and announced he was suspending campaign:
Herman Cain, a little known businessman who became a frontrunner in the Republican presidential race, suspended his campaign Saturday following allegations of an extramarital affair and claims of sexual harassment.
For the past month, Cain has held on as an embattled candidate, denying accusations that he had sexually harassed several women when he headed the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. With his standing in the polls already slipping, an Atlanta woman this week came forward and alleged that she and Cain had carried on a 13-year affair.
The former Godfather’s chief executive, whose snappy slogans and simple policy prescriptions won over voters, fiercely denied all of the accusations.
Cain’s decision is the latest twist in a Republican primary contest that has been marked by a search among conservatives for an alternative to Mitt Romney, the establishment favorite. In early summer, that was Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and, by late September, Cain. In recent weeks, Newt Gingrich, dismissed in June after his campaign imploded, has risen to the top of the field alongside Romney.
The question now is where Cain’s support, which was fading even before he dropped out, will go. Many political observers believe Gingrich is the likeliest beneficiary, with one group of anti-Romney voters shifting to another. But there is evidence that Romney too could benefit — a Pew poll conducted before Thanksgiving showed that Cain supporters split evenly between Romney and Gingrich when asked for their second choice. Second-tier candidates, such as Texas Rep. Ron Paul, are likely to make an aggressive push for Cain voters as well.
In a Republican nominating contest that has see-sawed from one frontrunner to another, Cain, 65, was perhaps the unlikeliest to rise to the top of the pack. A former pizza executive with no political experience, little campaign to speak of and a schedule tailored more to selling books than winning votes, Cain nevertheless captured the hearts of Republican voters with a clear message, confidently delivered.
In a field of politicians and Washington insiders, he was a businessman with “bold new ideas.” While Mitt Romney had a 59-point economic plan and a 160-page book to explain it, Cain said the nation’s ills could be fixed with three simple numbers — 9, 9 and 9.
Cain talked so incessantly about his plan — which would have scrapped the current tax code and replaced it with a 9 percent tax on individuals, a 9 percent tax on businesses, and a 9 percent sales tax — that it became both a punch line and a selling point.
On the campaign trail, Cain attracted large crowds who were drawn to his straight-forward style, folksy sayings (“awwww shucky ducky now!”) and affability. More than once he delighted crowds by breaking into song. Released in the midst of his presidential run, his latest book, “THIS IS HERMAN CAIN!,” became a bestseller.
Cain also embraced his role as the first African American to rise to the top tier of a Republican nominating contest. When asked whether he was the flavor of the week for Republican voters, Cain told Jay Leno to call him “Haagen-Dazs Black Walnut” because “it tastes good all the time.” And he used his up-by-my-bootstraps story of growing up poor and black in Atlanta to connect with voters and extol American values.
Cain’s standing began to disintegrate in late October when Politico reported that two women had been given payments after making claims of sexual harassment at the restaurant association. Later, the Associated Press said a third woman had come forward to say she also had been sexually harassed by Cain.
On Nov. 7, a Chicago woman, Sharon Bialek, went on television with celebrity attorney Gloria Allred and claimed Cain had been sexually aggressive with her when she met him in Washington to seek job advice.
And on Monday, a television interview with Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White aired with her description of her affair with Cain. She said the relationship began after they met at a business meeting. Cain acknowledged a friendship with White and said he had been helping her financially, but insisted it was not sexual.
Cain’s small campaign staff proved unable to effectively respond to the allegations, with Cain often contradicting himself or his advisers. Some of his precinct captains left his campaign after the allegations of an affair arose.
This is not at all surprising, for the reasons I’ve discussed previously. Cain’s poll numbers were collapsing, his campaign staff was disorganized to the point where they didn’t even know what he would say when he took the stage today, and his fundraising was drying up. Even if he had stayed in the race, Cain was at the point where he was becoming a non-factor as attention shifts to what clearly seems to be a two-man race developing Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. It means we won’t see Cain tonight at Mike Huckabee’s forum/debate in Fox News Channel, nor will we see him at the debates next week. Even if he was there, though, one doubts the moderators would’ve spent much more time talking to him than they would to Rick Santorum.
The speech itself was filled with some of the same victimization memes that we’ve seen from other conservative Republicans, with Cain essentially claiming that he was brought down by false accusations:
ATLANTA — Herman Cain suspended his presidential campaign Saturday at the pre-scheduled opening of a new campaign headquarters here.
“These false and unproved allegations continue to be spinned 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.”
The decision from the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and one-time GOP poll leader comes after a week of reassessment of his prospects, despite public defiance on the campaign trail.
But to a crowd that came to cheer on their support at what was to be an opening day party — and rarely felt like anything else than a fervid campaign rally — Cain acknowledged the toll on his family and his campaign from a month of revelations of multiple sexual harassment allegations and a claim of an extramarital affair.
Cain said that despite his decision, he had no plans to pull back from the public sphere.
“I am not going to be silenced, and I am not going away,” Cain declared, unveiling a “Plan B” that will include speaking out, a new website and an endorsement of one of his former rivals.
Plan A, he said, was to win the White House and change Washington from the inside, but “Plan B is that we are going to have to change it from the outside.”
“I am disappointed that it came to this point, that we had to make this decision,” he said.
In reality, of course, it wasn’t the allegations themselves that brought Herman Cain down so much as his own and his campaigns inept, insulting, and downright stupid reaction to the allegations. When we first learned of the stories regarding alleged sexual harassment at the National Restaurant Association, the response from the Cain campaign, which had ten days advance notice of a story which could not have come as a surprise to Cain personally, was nothing short of totally inept. Within days, they were flinging accusations of dirty tricks at everyone from a former aide on Cain’s 2004 Senate campaign to the Rick Perry campaign, all of which later turned out to be untrue. When women such as Sharon Bialek went public with their allegations, Cain resorted to the old trick of claiming that these women were either in it for the money or they were “troubled,” in some way, a charge he repeated mere days ago when the Ginger White story came out. If it was these allegations that brought Herman Cain down, then he has nobody to blame but himself.
Personally I would have preferred if what brought down Herman Cain wasn’t allegations about his sexual proclivities, but the rather obvious fact that he was entirely unqualified for the office that he sought. His solution to any domestic policy problem never seemed to stray beyond reciting the name of his inherently flawed tax plan. On foreign policy, he displayed an appalling level of ignorance about even basic matters that he actually seemed to be proud of. His disgusting bigotry toward Muslims, displayed in full force when his campaign was first launched, should have been enough to disqualify him as well. From the beginning, it never really seemed like Herman Cain was serious about running for President, a fact that was amply demonstrated by the manner in which he ran his campaign, the people he selected to surround himself with, and the fact that he seemed more concerned with promoting his book that engaging in anything resembling a campaign strategy.
Chris Cillizza has some early observations on what Cain’s campaign meant:
That Cain — on the strength of his speaking ability and the curb appeal of his “9-9-9” economic plan — spent more than a month as a leading candidate in the race for the Republican nomination provides a telling window into the mood of the GOP electorate on the verge of 2012.
That Cain collapsed in a heap of allegations of sexual impropriety and titanic levels of muddled messaging — all of which culminated in his decision to suspend his campaign Saturday — is proof that an unconventional approach to politics can only get you so far.
“To a base desperate to support change, a fresh face with exciting marketing sizzle but real problems handling policy substance ended up like most new network sitcoms: an interesting concept that gets great ratings early but is cancelled by midseason because the same thing happens over and over with no plot development, even while a dwindling viewership keeps rooting for the show to somehow make it to renewal,” explained Eric Ueland, a prominent Republican strategist.
Steve Schmidt, who managed Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential race, offered a far harsher assessment of the Cain moment.
“That Cain’s candidacy was taken seriously for longer than a nano-second in a time of genuine crisis for the country raises fundamental questions about the health of the political process and the Republican party,” Schmidt said.
Indeed. The fact that so many people were taken in, and that only a few weeks ago he was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination while other more serious candidates with far more experience were getting 1-2% in the polls, is quite honestly a stark indictment of just how irrational certain segments of the Republican base have become, and the fact that Herman Cain supporters will now probably jump to Newt Gingrich just further establishes that fact.
It was certainly entertaining, Mr. Cain, but don’t pretend it was ever serious.
Update: Here’s video of the speech: