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Herman Cain Suspends Presidential Campaign


This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

HERMAN CAIN: As false accusations about me continue, they have sidetracked and distracted my ability to present solutions to the American people.

MARTIN: That was businessman Herman Cain today in Atlanta, announcing he is dropping out of the presidential race. For weeks, Mr. Cain has denied allegations that he sexually harassed several women as head of the National Restaurant Association. And just this week, an Atlanta woman claimed she and Cain had a 13-year affair.

NPR's Kathy Lohr is in Atlanta and joins me now. Hi, Kathy.

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: Hi. Good afternoon.

MARTIN: So Mr. Cain kept reporters waiting for quite a long time today. Reports say even last night, he apparently hadn't yet made a decision about what he was doing with his campaign. And yet, this wasn't exactly a surprise for the supporters in the crowd. Was it?

LOHR: You know, it wasn't exactly a surprise, but it was a very strange mood today. I mean, it was a crowd of about 300 people that waited for several hours. People were apprehensive, then they seemed kind of hopeful. OK, he's not going to quit. And then, you know, they were very quiet as Cain, you know, finally came and made the announcement.

And he said even in his speech, you know, he prided himself all along on being a non-politician. But - and in part because of that, his campaign was hurt by sometimes his poor performance in the debates and in interviews on - especially on matters of foreign policy. But the latest blow was, as you mentioned, this accusation from Ginger White about an alleged 13-year affair. And while Cain continued to deny it, he said today, that really made it impossible to go on.

CAIN: I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt caused on me and my family.

MARTIN: Now, Kathy, he used the word suspend right there, not end. What's the difference? Is there a difference?

LOHR: There's not much of a difference, Rachel, between suspending or ending. Mostly, it just sounds better when a candidate says he's suspending. It's mostly semantics. He could still raise money and keep his organization going either way. But today, Cain did blame the media and political elites for derailing the campaign.

CAIN: 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.

MARTIN: Kathy, some polls showed Herman Cain enjoying some pretty solid support from elements of the Republican Party. What happens now? Did you pick up any signals today about who they might support going forward?

LOHR: Well, Cain said he would endorse someone, but he didn't say who that would be yet. I mean, kind of left the drama going. However, I talked to many people afterward who now say they will give their support to - not a big surprise - former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Here's Sherry Curland(ph) from Atlanta.

SHERRY CURLAND: Namely, he has been on the inside. And as a result, he knows the egos and the ways of working in Congress. I think, in his own way, he's a maverick and will come up with potential solutions that have not necessarily been thought of or described by a lot of others.

LOHR: This is one supporter who said that she thinks Cain will have some influence over who the GOP nominee ultimately is. And that Cain's endorsement would make a difference in the race.

MARTIN: Real quick, Kathy, we should note that Herman Cain's wife, Gloria, was there receiving chants from the audience.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Gloria! Gloria! Gloria!

LOHR: She was. People were so excited that she was there because, I think, they originally thought that meant that he would be staying in, because Gloria was very firm in many interviews, saying she wouldn't be standing behind Herman Cain if she thought he was guilty.

MARTIN: NPR's Kathy Lohr in Atlanta. Thanks so much, Kathy.

LOHR: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.