Herman Cain, the insurgent populist whose candidacy has been ensnared by allegations of sexual impropriety, said Saturday that he is leaving the race for the Republican presidential nomination, saying that the allegations have cast a "cloud of doubt over me and this campaign."
"As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign," he said at an event in Atlanta. "I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt . . . on me, on my family, not because we are not fighters, not because I am not a fighter."
Cain's campaign had sent mixed signals as to his future since Ginger White, an Atlanta woman who claims to have had an affair with Cain for more than a decade, went public with her story earlier this week. While Cain has said he has been "reassessing" his candidacy, he also, at times, has been fiercely defiant, suggesting that unnamed enemies have been trying to do him in and vowing to press forward.
"The pundits would like for me to shut up, drop out and go away," he said. "I am not going to be silenced, and I am not going away."
White's claims came after Cain faced weeks of allegations of sexual misconduct by at least three women stemming from his tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Assn. in the late 1990s.
Even as Cain continued to decry the claims as "false" and "baseless," the sheer weight of the scandal has taken a brutal toll on the campaign, diverting Cain from advocating the "9-9-9" tax plan that helped turn him into a household name almost overnight, costing him financial support, and damaging him in the polls.
He was also hurt by a series of costly gaffes and confused moments, particularly with regard to foreign affairs, that exposed the Atlanta businessman's lack of experience on the national political stage. Added together, the tumult persuaded conservatives looking for a champion to turn elsewhere, with most now casting their eyes at Newt Gingrich.