Earlier this week, Herman Cain announced that he was "reassessing" his campaign in light of the allegations he had an extramarital affair and charges of sexual harassment. This afternoon—in an event marked by fanfare and enthusiasm—Cain followed up on that announcement with a decision to suspend his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. “I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction and the continued hurt caused on me and my family,” said Cain in his speech to supporters. “It’s not because I’m not a fighter,” he explained, “It’s just that when I went through this reassessment of the impact on my family … my supporters … as well as my ability to raise the necessary funds to be competitive, we had to come to this conclusion.”
When thinking about what his campaign meant for the Republican presidential contest, it’s important to remember that Cain—for all of his popularity—was never a serious candidate for the nomination. He had little history with the Republican Party establishment and shallow relationships with GOP activists on the state and local level. He lacked an on-the-ground campaign in the early primary states, and he devoted most of his time to states like Alabama—irrelevant to the nomination contest but a fine venue for selling books. Cain’s campaign was bound to collapse at some point, the only question was how. That the implosion came by way of an affair and harassment scandal was the only surprise.
Herman Cain never had a chance at the nomination, but he did give conservatives a chance to blunt liberal accusations of racial resentment. Conservatives could point to Cain, who grew up under Jim Crow, as a “real black man.” A Washington Times columnist captured this best when he attacked liberals for their opposition to the Georgia businessman: “Herman Cain’s detractors are racists. … They do not want to see a real, accomplished, and successful Black man in the White House.” Cain understood this and played on it as part of his appeal.
So, does this mean that Cain is out for the count? Not so much. Rather than compete for the nomination, Cain will take his message to the American people with a new website—thecainsolutions.com. Vague platitudes notwithstanding—“the people will show that they are in charge of this country"—it’s not clear what Cain intends to accomplish with this new venture. Regardless, it’s clear that Cain intends to stay in the public eye and turn his presidential campaign cum book tour into something a bit more lucrative. As he said at the conclusion of his speech, in a quotation borrowed from the Pokemon series, "Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It’s never easy when there’s so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference. There’s a mission just for you and me."