Republican White House hopeful Herman Cain on Saturday effectively ended his US presidential bid, citing the painful toll of “false and unproved” allegations of sexual harassment and adultery.
Appearing defiant, but clearly upset, the former pizza executive announced to gasps from a crowd of supporters that he was “suspending” his campaign because of “the continued hurt caused on me and my family” by claims of impropriety.
“America has learned something about this process of running for president. It’s a dirty game. It’s a dirty, dirty game, but I happen to believe that the American people are sick of this mess,” Cain said at a rally in Atlanta.
The dramatic announcement curtailed a roller-coaster run for the White House that, after a meteoric rise that had put Cain at the front of a field of experienced politicians seeking the Republican nomination, had begun to falter.
Cain said he would endorse in the “near future” another Republican bidding to take on US President Barack Obama in next year’s election and he vowed to stay in politics with a “Plan B” initiative that he dubbed “Cain Solutions.”
“I am not going to be silenced, and I am not going away,” Cain said in a passionate speech, pledging to remain “a voice for the people.”
With his wife, Gloria, at his side, the 65-year-old Cain added: “I am at peace with my family, and I am at peace with myself ... I am at peace with my wife, and she is at peace with me.”
The candidate’s wife of 43 years smiled and waved to the crowd of her husband’s supporters, who broke into chants of “Gloria, Gloria, Gloria” during Cain’s speech outside what was to have been his campaign headquarters.
By choosing to suspend his campaign, rather than definitively shutting it down, Cain is able to continue raising and spending campaign funds.
However, his departure clears the field for other Republicans hoping to take on Obama, boosting the chances of current favorites, former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, another challenger who has suffered in the polls, was the first to wish Cain well.
“I know this was a difficult decision for Herman Cain, his family and his supporters. He helped invigorate conservative voters and our nation with a discussion of major tax reform,” Perry said.
After lagging for months, Cain caught the imagination among strategically vital Tea Party conservatives with a simple, oft-repeated slogan for tax reform — “9-9-9” — that cut through a fog of vague promises by other candidates.
However, his dramatic jump from the bottom ranks to the top of the Republican field, vying for frontrunner status with Romney by late October, came tumbling down just as swiftly.
His announcement came in the wake of repeated misconduct allegations, some of them graphic in detail, that undermined his image as a devout Christian family man.
Cain’s plummeting numbers have opened the way for a surge by Gingrich to the front of the Republican pack to take on Obama.