Meeting with wife may be key to future of Cain bid


Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain reacts to supporters at his campaign headquarters in Manchester, N.H., Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 3:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 3:57 p.m.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — He's still plotting an aggressive campaign schedule across several states, but Herman Cain also has begun to outline a possible exit strategy from the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

The former business executive, facing a woman's allegation of a 13-year extramarital affair, says a heavy emotional toll on his family — particularly his wife, Gloria, whom he has not seen since the charge surfaced — could force him to call it quits. The shift comes as a growing chorus of would-be allies suggests he is no longer a viable presidential contender, and Cain himself says fundraising has suffered.

Cain, a top-tier candidate just weeks ago, says he'll decide in the next "few days" whether to abandon his White House bid, but not before he meets with his wife, who's been at their suburban Atlanta home.

"Since I've been campaigning all week, I haven't had an opportunity to sit down with her and walk through this with my wife and my family. I will do that when I get back home on Friday," Cain told reporters gathered at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters Wednesday night. "I am not going to make a decision until after we talk face to face."

Cain said he had spoken to his wife only by phone since Monday, the day an Atlanta television station reported the woman's accusation. Since then, aides have packed his campaign schedule with stops in Ohio, New Hampshire, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia and prepared to launch a fresh round of TV ads in Iowa.

Cain sat down Thursday afternoon with the New Hampshire Union Leader, an influential conservative voice in the first-in-the-nation primary state. On the way into the building, he told reporters there would be nothing new to share until he finishes "a complete reassessment" in the coming days.

On Thursday evening the former pizza executive was set to deliver a business-focused speech at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesburo.

"There were some people who thought that I was finished," Cain said Wednesday night. "But I'm going to leave it with Yogi Berra's comment: 'It ain't over till it's over.' And it ain't over yet."

Many Republican operatives believe Cain's bid is over whether he pulls the plug or not.

"I don't see how they walk away from the damage that's been done and emerge as a viable primary candidate," said Rick Wilson, a longtime GOP consultant based in Florida. "All these things about Herman Cain keep coming out drip, drip, drip, and they're not handling it well. And now conservative Republicans have another place to go: Newt Gingrich."

Dan McLagan, a veteran GOP strategist based in Atlanta, said Cain "is like a zombie at this point: He's dead but he does not appear to have noticed and has kept on walking."

"His support is all moving to Gingrich and, at some point, he's going to look back and see that he is grand marshal of a one-man parade," McLagan said.

Gingrich has been the beneficiary — in polls, at least — of Cain's slide in the month since it was disclosed that the National Restaurant Association paid settlements to two women who claimed Cain sexually harassed them while he was its president. A third woman told The Associated Press that Cain made inappropriate sexual advances but that she didn't file a complaint. A fourth woman also stepped forward to accuse Cain of groping her in a car in 1997.

Cain has denied wrongdoing in all cases.

Atlanta-area businesswoman Ginger White, 46, said her affair with Cain ended this year before he became a White House candidate. In an interview with an Atlanta TV station, she displayed records showing repeated cell phone calls and text messages with Cain.

Cain has denied any such affair, and in a letter addressed to "patriots and supporters" called her allegations "completely false" and labeled her "troubled." Cain's attorney, Lin Wood, has sent a letter to White's attorney requesting those cell phone records among other documents so Cain and his team can analyze their authenticity and content.

"It's very disappointing that he would call me troubled and, you know, it's unfortunate," White said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

White's attorney, Edward Buckley, said Thursday that his client was trying to obtain additional cell phone records. He has not yet responded to the letter from Wood.

Senior Cain aides huddled privately this week to map out a strategy to get past the allegations.

They've dispatched top staffers to New Hampshire and Iowa in recent days to help strengthen Cain's efforts in early voting states. National political director Bo Harmon, for example, arrived in New Hampshire Wednesday and expects to spend most of his time there until the Granite State's Jan. 10 Republican primary.

But Cain has told his top supporters that his campaign must determine whether he will have the financial and grassroots support to move ahead.

"The day that this latest one hit, fundraising went way down," Cain said Wednesday. "As the week has gone on and this woman who has made these accusations has basically started to contradict herself, our fundraising has started to go back up. It's not up to the level where it was, but a lot of people are saying, you know what, they don't believe it."

In several campaign stops this week, he renewed what has become a familiar defense: that he is the victim of attacks by liberals and the establishment, who are threatened by his outsider appeal.

In Iowa, Cain's state chairman, Steve Grubbs, said he was preparing a busy December schedule beginning with a Dec. 10 debate in Des Moines. And Cain, who has not aired any campaign ads in Iowa since last week, will resume advertising Friday with a new spot that asserts that electing Cain would put a veteran chief executive in the White House, not a politician.

"I've spent a lifetime creating jobs," Cain says in the ad. "And if you make me America's CEO, we the people will take this country back."

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