ATLANTA — Herman Cain is still campaigning for president. But by most measures, his White House bid is all but over.
His standing in polls is cratering. Supporters are wavering if not fleeing. Fundraising is suffering.
And, these days, the former pizza company executive is less a serious candidate than the butt of late-night comedy jokes after a string of accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior and, now, an allegation of a 13-year-long extramarital affair.
“His chance at winning the presidency are effectively zero,” said Dave Welch, a Republican strategist who worked on both of John McCain’s presidential bids.
And Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway said: “It’s the daily dose of the wince-and-cringe factor that leaves people wondering what could be coming next,”
As it has since Ginger White stepped forward Monday, the allegation of an affair overshadowed Cain’s campaign for another day Thursday, when he told the New Hampshire Union Leader that his wife, Gloria, did not know he was providing the 46-year-old Atlanta-area businesswoman with money for “month-to-month bills and expenses.”
And, Cain said, his wife also didn’t know of what he called a friendship with White until she said publicly that she had a casual 13-year affair with Cain that ended about eight months ago.
It is the latest chapter in a saga that has played out in recent weeks as his campaign has been rocked first with allegations of sexual harassment and, now, White’s affair claim.
Over the past month, Cain has watched his standing in polls sink. He acknowledged his fundraising took a hit after White came forward, and political experts predict that his ability to take in campaign cash will evaporate now that he is re-evaluating whether to remain in the race.
If he decides to continue running, Cain would face another big hurdle: the loss of grassroots support, which has provided the core of his base for his anti-establishment campaign.
Atlanta Tea Party Patriots co-founder Debbie Dooley typifies the falloff of support. She had been vigorously defending Cain as the sexual harassment allegations trickled out. But White’s accusation proved too much.
“I don’t know what to believe,” Dooley said. “I just think he needs to get out now and focus on
Charlie Gruchow, one of Cain’s earliest and most devout supporters in Iowa, has said he has moved his support to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, because he doesn’t think Cain can
“I still don’t believe all the allegations,” he said. “But it’s really damaged him.”
Even Cain’s supporters acknowledge his odds have grown even steeper with a cloud planted over his campaign and just weeks before voting gets under way in Iowa.
“I’m still backing him, but I definitely think it’s a bigger and bigger mountain to climb,” Florida state Rep. Carlos Trujillo said Tuesday, the day after White emerged. “It’s going to be difficult to make up that ground in so short an amount of time.”