Update: It's official. Herman Cain has suspended his campaign for president, even as he continues to deny allegations of infidelity and harassment of women.
The New York Times noted that he was "defiant," and that Cain planned to push forward with "Plan B": Continued advocacy for his aggressive tax-reform proposals. He also blamed the news media for the downfall of his once soaring campaign for the Republican nomination.
“As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign,” Mr. Cain said. “Because of the continued distractions, the continued hurt caused on me and my family, not because we are not fighters. Not because I’m not a fighter.”
The announcement, originally slated as the opening of his campaign's Georgia office, featured barbecue, a blues band, and Tea Party movement supporters in colonial costumes, The Times reported.
Cain's departure from the race was not a huge surprise. Many anonymous sources had told many major news outlets that Cain would bail out of his presidential bid on Saturday, amid allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity.
The race was on, once it was official, for the affections of Herman Cain's supporters. Your early leader? The man who supplanted Cain as the ascendant ticket in the Republican field, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich led the bunch in issuing praise and condolences for the Cain campaign, as in this tweet praising the ex-candidate's 9-9-9 tax plan. And he's looking for a meeting with Cain next week, Politico reports. Newt smells endorsement potential!
Of course, some spoilsports were ruining the moment by pointing out reasons other than allegations of harassment that Cain might not really have been the man to head a major party's presidential ticket. Quoth The Onion: "Rumors of Extramarital Affair End Campaign of Presidential Candidate Who Didn't Know China Has Nuclear Weapons."
The Cain surge had long since turned into something of a deathwatch. Literally so, in the metaphor of Politico's lede. "The party scheduled for the opening of Herman Cain's new campaign headquarters Saturday may turn out to be a wake," Maggie Haberman and Reid J. Epstein write.
Multiple sources told POLITICO late Friday that Cain was leaning toward quitting. If he does, it would help further the evolution of the primary race into a two-man contest between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who’s sure to sop up many of the anti-Romney voters who’d been behind Cain.
It also would complete a spectacular flame-out for the political novice candidate who shot to the top of polls in late September and stayed there for almost two months on the strength of compelling debate performances, his outsider appeal and catchy “999” tax reform plan.
But The New York Times reports that the atmosphere before today's scheduled opening of a Georgia campaign headquarters — it's been pushed back from 11 a.m. to early afternoon — doesn't have the usual funereal tone of the end of a political campaign.
"Despite the possibility of somber news, it looks more like a summer picnic is in the works," The Times reports. And after a widely publicized summit with his wife, Gloria, over whether to continue, the candidate's campaign now has him on the record as ... undecided.
Alfredo Ortiz, Mr. Cain’s press secretary for Georgia, conceded that it does not seem like the atmosphere in which a campaign might end. “You’d surmise not,” Mr. Ortiz said. “But I don’t know. He’s still deciding.”
Mr. Ortiz said the staff may not even be told before the public. “I’m not sure if he’ll let us know before or along with everyone else.”