In the end, Herman Cain’s wife, the diminutive woman he said held the key to his future as a presidential candidate, was a case of misdirection.
For days, Herman Cain had told the friendly faces on cable TV that he would head home to Atlanta for a face-to-face discussion with Gloria, his spouse of 43 years – the woman he first romanced with a movie date at Lenox Square, but who had declined to become part of his political quest.
Without her support, Cain said, his Republican campaign would collapse in the face of a new allegation that he had engaged in a long-time affair with another woman – a charge that he had denounced not just as untrue, but unproven.
So on Saturday, a very specific question hung over the new state headquarters for the Cain campaign, a storefront operation close enough to I-85 in DeKalb County to catch the breeze created by the traffic. Would Gloria Cain be there? Several hundred Cain fans were given two hours to mull the situation over.
Kay Godwin and Pat Tippett drove more than five hours from south Georgia to be there. If you are a politician in Georgia interested in winning a statewide race, you know that the two women are the fulcrum for thousands of Republican votes below the gnat line.
Godwin has known Cain for 20 years. She thinks the sexual accusations against him are hogwash, a creation of a fearful Republican establishment and the liberal media. But on Saturday, during the waiting, she also declared that she thought that Cain had been ill-served by his national staff.
“Pat and I have the 1st Congressional District. We have 26 of our 29 counties already organized. We have a conference call with them every Tuesday night,” Godwin said.
Cain supporters in south Georgia had come to two conclusions. “No. 1, if he doesn’t get rid of [campaign manager] Mark Block and those people surrounding him, he’s going nowhere,” the GOP activist said.
That included Atlanta lawyer Lin Wood, who, in Cain’s defense, had issued a letter declaring that what two consenting adults do behind bedroom doors is nobody’s business.
Demand No. 2, Godwin said, was for Cain’s wife to be by his side that afternoon. “We can stand behind him and know he’s telling the truth if his wife stands behind him,” she said. “If she’s not going to be there – I’m driving five and a half hours from south Georgia up here for somebody whose wife isn’t going to cross town to stand by him?”
At 1:30 p.m., the bus with Herman Cain’s face on it pulled close to the headquarters. The candidate was the first out. He held out his right hand, and helped his wife down the stairs.
“Gloria! Gloria!” the crowd shouted, their hopes lifted by her presence, as she and her husband came to the stage. Block, the campaign manager with the famous cigarette habit, stood silently in the background, holding Cain’s trademark black cowboy hat.
The candidate spoke of the remarkable distance he’d traveled from his birthplace, on Pelham Street in Atlanta’s old Fifth Ward, the son of a maid and a Coca-Cola chauffeur.
He was one of a trio of men in line, on the Republican side, to become the most powerful figure in the world. Add President Barack Obama for good measure, he said. “I’m in the Final Four. We’re in the Final Four.”
But Cain admitted that the last few days had caused irreparable damage. “That spin hurts. It hurts my wife. It hurts my family. It hurts me. And it hurts the American people, because you’re being denied solutions to our problems,” he said.
But he wanted the crowd to know this: “I am at peace with God.” And then Cain pointed to the woman behind him. “I am at peace with my wife. And she is at peace with me,” he said.
The hopeful chants began again. “Gloria! Gloria! Gloria!”
“That being said,” Cain continued – and finally pulled the rug out from under the grand opening of his campaign headquarters. He would suspend his campaign, he told a stunned and befuddled crowd.
As it turned out, Gloria Cain’s permission wasn’t the key to continuing his candidacy. Her husband admitted that, in the wake of five weeks of scandal, his contributions had dried up.
But his wife’s presence was absolutely essential to Cain’s ability to retire from the field with his reputation intact – so that he might maintain his influence as a Republican player.
For Cain, Plan B is something called thecainsolution.com, a place on the Internet where he can still push his “9-9-9” plan. The Stockbridge entrepreneur will follow the lead of Sarah Palin, and attempt to become a political persona who operates outside the political process – as his campaign tried to do, but failed.
“One of the reasons that I ran for president of the United States was that so I could change Washington D.C. from the inside,” he said. “Plan B is that we’re going to have to change it from the outside.”
And with that, the Saturday crowd began to drift away, perhaps to their TV sets. The Bulldogs were still an undefeated possibility.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider