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After weeks of allegations and stumbles, Cain shifts to 'Plan B'

By Martina Stewart, CNN.com Political Producer
updated 11:27 PM EST, Sat December 3, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Herman Cain announced Saturday that he is suspending his campaign
  • Cain had been dogged by allegations of sexual harassment and an affair
  • Cain also had suffered through several stumbles on policy issues
  • Cain: "Becoming president was Plan A. Today I want to describe Plan B"

Washington (CNN) -- In the waning days of his embattled presidential campaign, Herman Cain sounded like a man crafting his own political obituary.

Cain suspends presidential bid

Talking about "the American dream" at an event in Ohio Wednesday, Cain drew inspiration from his alma mater, Morehouse College. The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza told his audience, "Dr. Benjamin Mays, late president of Morehouse College, used to challenge the young men of Morehouse when he would say, 'Let it be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in reaching your goals. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach for.'"

"It's not a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled," Cain continued, "but it is a calamity to have no dreams."

Cain suspends presidential campaign

Cain's prophetic comments came less than 48 hours after he used a live interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer to try to get ahead of an accusation by Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White, who says that she and Cain carried on a 13-year affair. "I did not have an affair," Cain said on "The Situation Room" just hours before a local Atlanta TV station aired White's accusation.

Cain heads home after rough week

What followed can only be described as a difficult week for Cain -- filled with unflattering headlines and sound bites -- a week that culminated Saturday with his decision to suspend his presidential campaign, essentially ending his 2012 White House hopes.

Cain campaign ups and downs

What does 'suspending' mean?

Bumpy ride on the 'Cain train'

The accusation by White was the latest in a series of allegations of sexual misconduct against Cain to receive national media attention since late October, when Politico reported on past allegations of sexual harassment leveled against the businessman in the 1990s while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association. The report eventually led to one Chicago woman, Sharon Bialek, coming forward publicly and on camera, with famed feminist attorney Gloria Allred at her side, as she alleged that Cain had groped her in 1997. Bialek said the incident occurred as she met with Cain in hopes of restoring her former employment with the restaurant industry group. "Unfortunately for Herman, he's still in denial [about his alleged behavior]," Bialek said on "Piers Morgan Tonight" in early November.

The sexual harassment controversy also eventually led to the identification of Karen Kraushaar as one of two women who received financial payments from the National Restaurant Association after they alleged that Cain had sexually harassed them. Though Kraushaar decided not to appear on camera, she called Cain a "serial denier." "He will deny if it is four or 40 women," she told CNN in early November.

While Cain weathered the firestorm set off by the reporting of past sexual harassment allegations against him, the episode seemed to slow his momentum in the polls and create a window of opportunity for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to surge in the volatile race for the GOP presidential nod and claim the ever-changing mantle of being a more conservative alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Poll: Romney, Gingrich tied for top spot

Herman Cain: Anti-woman candidate?

And reporting about the sexual harassment allegations also brought to the surface questions about the viability of Cain's candidacy in the eyes of Republican women voters, an important voting bloc in both the general election and the primaries, and a powerful force within the tea party movement.

Cain's strategy: Is it working?

The trail of sexual misconduct allegations was not the only cause of Cain's fall from surging frontrunner to former presidential hopeful.

In recent months, the businessman had a number of foreign policy stumbles which seemed to confirm concerns within GOP circles that he did not have the mastery of international affairs or national security necessary to be the nation's next commander-in-chief.

Cain sings at National Press Club
Getting to Know Herman Cain
CNN Red Chair Interview: Herman Cain

In mid-October, Cain said he'd put an electrified fence on the U.S. border if he became president. Although Cain quickly walked back the comment, saying he had been joking and "America needs to get a sense of humor," that did not stop rival Michele Bachmann from pouncing with the assertion that border security was "no laughing matter." And Texas Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, the Democratic chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, also seized on Cain's comment as insensitive and displaying a lack of understanding about the immigration issues the country is facing.

Then, at a CNN GOP presidential debate, Cain was forced to walk back a comment about negotiating with al Qaeda over the release of prisoners held at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a comment he'd made to CNN's Wolf Blitzer just hours earlier.

In early November, Cain's comments to PBS seemed to suggest that he did not know China was a nuclear power and has been for more than four decades.

Cain shows inconsistencies in foreign policy understanding

Then in mid-November, and just as the noise over the reporting on past sexual harassment allegations was dying down, Cain famously had a painful stumble in an on-camera interview with newspaper reporters. Asked whether he agreed with how President Barack Obama had handled the unrest in Libya which eventually toppled the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, Cain took nearly a minute to formulate his answer, during which time he seemed to be confused about which Arab Spring uprising was at issue and what the president's approach to it had been.

Then, Cain suggested that the burgeoning government in Libya contains elements of the terrorist groups al Qaeda and the Taliban, an assertion that was rejected by the Obama administration's ambassador to the United Nations.

On the domestic front, Cain also stumbled on some policy issues. During an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, Cain muddied the waters about his views on abortion, a move that quickly drew fire and criticism from rivals Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry.

The slip-up forced Cain to clarify his position on abortion.

And "9-9-9," Cain's signature economic policy that helped power him to the top of the polls, also came under withering scrutiny once he became a frontrunner. Liberals attacked Cain's proposal for a radically simplified tax system by pointing out that it would be more regressive than the current system. And conservatives raised concerns that the creation of a new national sales tax would provide a new revenue stream to a federal bureaucracy that they already see as bloated, overreaching, and fiscally irresponsible.

Report: 84% would pay more under Cain's 9-9-9 plan

Effectively bowing to some of the criticism, Cain announced "9-0-9" in late October, a version of his tax proposal meant to ease the burden on taxpayers at or below the poverty line.

Finally, an odd web video released by the Cain campaign that featured Cain's chief of staff Mark Block smoking on camera drew criticism because Cain is a cancer survivor and the video began to raise questions about the seriousness of Cain's presidential bid.

In the past month or so, as the "Cain train" seemed to be losing contact with the political rails and as Gingrich surged in the polls, pundits and journalists also began openly to question the Cain campaign's strategy of seemingly ignoring -- rather than focusing on -- the critical early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Instead of running for president, many political observers suggested, Cain seemed to be conducting a thinly veiled promotional tour for his new book that was released in October just as he surged to front-runner status.

In the end, weeks of accusations and allegations, stumbles, missteps and growing questions seemed to crush Cain's upstart campaign under its own weight.

In his last public appearance Friday before announcing his decision to suspend his presidential bid, Cain was again prophetic and looked aloft for guidance.

"There is God's plan, but you see, God doesn't tell you his plan for you until he believes you are ready for those parts of the plan," Cain told a gathering of supporters in South Carolina. "So I believe that I'm on this journey, I'm on this journey for a reason and I don't look back."

Speaking Saturday with his wife Gloria cheering him, Cain had found his direction. "Becoming president was Plan A . . . today I want to describe Plan B," Cain told supporters before he announced the suspension of his presidential campaign.

CNN's Kevin Bohn, Shannon Travis, Steve Brusk, Shawna Shepherd, Gabriella Schwarz, Ashley Killough, Kevin Liptak, Peter Hamby, Alison Harding, Jamie Crawford, Jeanne Sahadi, Charles Riley and Rebecca Stewart contributed to this report.

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