The fate of his presidential bid will be announced after talks with his wife, Cain says
He sends a message to supporters, asking for prayers and contributions
Cain's Iowa support is in single digits, the Des Moines Register reports
Cain's campaign has been dogged by allegations of sexual harassment and an affair
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain said Friday he will address the future of his presidential campaign Saturday at the scheduled opening of a Georgia campaign headquarters.
“Tomorrow in Atlanta, I will be making an announcement,” he said at a town hall meeting in Rock Hill, South Carolina. “But nobody’s going to get me to make that prematurely, that’s all there is to that.”
He said the announcement will “clarify … exactly what the next steps are” for the campaign.
Cain’s once-surging bid for the Republican presidential nomination has become hobbled in recent weeks by allegations of sexual harassment and, most recently, an Atlanta woman’s claim that they carried on a 13-year affair.
At Friday’s town hall, Cain said he was reassessing his campaign “because of all this media firestorm stuff,” adding, “my wife and family comes first.”
But he gave no indication during the session that he planned to suspend his campaign, which he had said Thursday in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader’s editorial board was an option.
His campaign also pressed ahead with initiatives, sending out requests for prayers and financial contributions and unveiling a “Women for Cain” website that the organization described as an “online national fellowship of women dedicated to helping elect Herman Cain as the next president of the United States.”
Cain has acknowledged that Ginger White’s allegations have led to a drop in campaign contributions, and a Des Moines Register poll shows his support among likely Republican Iowa caucus-goers has fallen to 8%, down from 23% in October. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 4.9 points, the newspaper said.
Respondents said they were most concerned that Cain does not understand important issues, but said the allegations against him contribute to their concern, the newspaper said.
This week, White told the news media that she and Cain engaged in an on-and-off affair for more than 13 years. She described the affair as “very casual.”
Two women – Sharon Bialek and Karen Kraushaar – previously accused Cain of sexually harassing them in the 1990s while he was head of the National Restaurant Association. Two other women also have said Cain sexually harassed them while they worked at the association, but they have declined to be identified.
In an editorial board meeting with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Cain said he repeatedly gave Ginger White money to help her with “month-to-month bills and expenses.” However, he denied a sexual affair, as White alleges.
“I send checks to a lot of people; I help a lot of people,” Cain told Fox News on Thursday. “That in itself is not proof. So the other allegation in terms of it being a 13-year physical relationship, that is her words against my word.”
In the interview, Cain said his wife, Gloria Cain, knew nothing about about White nor his financial support for her until the mother of two came forward last week.
“My wife now knows,” he told the newspaper. “My wife and I have talked about it, and I have explained it to her. My wife understands that I’m a soft-hearted, giving person.”
Cain told staffers this week he was reassessing his campaign in the wake of White’s allegation of an affair, and he acknowledged to reporters Wednesday that her account had led to a drop in contributions to his campaign.
He said in the Thursday Union Leader interview that his wife’s feelings, as well as the reaction from supporters and donors, would be important factors in deciding whether he will stay the race.
Cain told the newspaper he would drop out of the race if his wife asked him to, but quickly added that she wouldn’t.
Though Gloria Cain rarely makes public appearances or statements, she told Fox News last month that she believed the sexual harassment allegations were “unfounded.”
On Thursday, White described her relationship with Cain to MSNBC as a casual sexual affair, and told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Cain gave her money and gifts for more than two years.
Cain acknowledged helping White financially, but has denied their relationship was sexual.
“She was out of work and had trouble paying her bills, and I had known her as a friend,” Cain told the Union Leader. “She wasn’t the only friend who I had helped in these tough economic times, and so her messages to me were relating to ‘need money for rent’ or whatever the case may be. I don’t remember all the specifics.”
In her interview with MSNBC on Thursday, White said of her relationship with Cain, “It wasn’t a love affair, it was a sexual affair.”
She expressed sadness for Cain’s wife.
“I am not a cold-hearted person. I am a mother of two kids and, of course, my heart bleeds for this woman because I am a woman and being in a situation like this cannot be fun. And I am deeply, deeply sorry if I have caused any hurt to her and to his kids, to his family. That was not my intention. I never wanted to hurt anyone, and I am deeply sorry.”
Cain told the Union Leader that he gave White money, but refused to divulge how much.
Saying that no questions would have been raised if the story involved giving money to a needy male friend, Cain added that his wife “is comfortable with the explanation that I told her.”
Asked about reports of text messages he had exchanged with White, Cain confirmed that the woman had sent him about 70 such messages between October 22 and November 18 including some “asking for financial assistance.”
Cain’s attorney, Lin Wood, told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” on Thursday that White has provided no proof of an affair or associated financial receipts.
“She was out of work and had trouble paying her bills and I had known her as a friend,” Cain said, adding: “She wasn’t the only friend who I had helped in these tough economic times, and so her messages to me were relating to ‘need money for rent’ or whatever the case may be. I don’t remember all the specifics.”
White said on “Good Morning America” that she had not saved receipts and notes throughout the affair because she never planned to make the relationship public. She said it was “very disappointing that he would call me troubled.”
On Thursday, an official with Cain’s Iowa campaign staff said the candidate’s chief of staff met with the four-person Iowa team to emphasize that the election drive was moving forward.
“I am inviting you to share your voice with me, my family and staff, and the nation,” Cain said in the message. “In short, I need to know that you are behind me 100%. In today’s political environment, the only way we can gauge true support is by the willingness of our supporters to invest in this effort.”
On Thursday, a campaign spokeswoman said Cain’s chief of staff met with the campaign’s four-person Iowa team to emphasize that the election drive was moving forward.
“Mark Block, Herman Cain’s chief of staff and chief operating officer, just left a meeting at the Iowa headquarters with all four Iowa staffers,” said a statement by Lisa Lockwood, the communications director of Friends of Herman Cain’s Iowa staff. “The emphatic message is that the campaign is full steam ahead. Herman Cain is in it to win it. He always has been and that has not changed.”
The Iowa caucuses, the first formal test of the primary season, are scheduled for January 3.
CNN’s Tom Cohen, Alan Silverleib, Josh Levs, Ashley Killough, Kevin Bohn, Gloria Borger, Peter Hamby, Wolf Blitzer and John King contributed to this report.
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