In October, Herman Cain was having the time of his life, according to those who know him well. At the front of the pack running for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, Cain had progressed much further and faster than he’d ever thought he could, given his weak political resume.
“Six weeks ago, Herman Cain was going home laughing his you know what off at how well he was doing,’’ says the Atlanta-based Rev. Joseph Lowery, friend of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “He was even surprised people were buying what he was selling. He has no business being in the race in the first place and he knows that better than anyone.’’
Then, in just a few days, things began to fall apart in a hurry as a string of women emerged accusing Cain of years of sexual advances and at least one long-term affair. So far Cain has done what he could to keep the charges from derailing his presidential bid, although in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, the former pizza-company executive said once again that he was reassessing his campaign bid in light of recent allegations of a 13-year affair with an Atlanta businesswoman.
The Cain campaign denied any strife in the marriage, but one campaign worker speaking anonymously said that Cain doesn’t want to quit because he doesn’t want to be seen as a loser.
No matter what happens to Cain’s presidential aspirations, sources close to his family say the accusations of infidelity have already taken a significant toll on an already strained marriage.
A close friend of one Cain’s two children explained that Herman and Gloria Cain’s marriage has seen its share of trouble over the years and his attraction to other women always played a huge role in the friction.
“It never felt like a real marriage when I was around them,’’ says the friend. “Mostly he was always gone and his wife seemed to be OK with it. Not being together seemed the norm for their marriage, and Gloria didn’t seem to mind. His kids didn’t seem to mind either. ’’
The friend noted that when Cain was around, he seemed completely in his own world.
“He was king of his castle and no one questioned him,’’ says the friend. “It was an uncomfortable set-up for an outsider like me to be around. He was so indifferent to everyone. But I liked Gloria. She was warm and kind.”
Several people who know the Cain family say Gloria and Herman have even lived in separate residences over the years. “They stayed together for good face. They’re old school where you stay just because. Herman likes to give the appearance of living this holier-than-thou life. But it’s anything but,” says someone close to the family.
Cain told Fox News that his wealth allowed him to give money to both men and women in need and certainly had no romantic implications. Ginger White, who says she had a 13-year affair with Cain, also said he gave her money and supported her throughout their relationship. Cain later admitted that his wife had no idea he was supporting White financially.
While Cain denies an affair with White, many in Atlanta can’t seem to remember seeing the Cains out together very often. Lowery says he saw Cain out and about in Atlanta over the years, but rarely ever with his wife.
“I can’t say I remember seeing the two of them being out together,’’ says Lowery. “I’d see him at conferences and other church-related functions from time to time. I even heard him sing a few times, but I never saw him with Gloria.’’
Another family friend says Gloria Cain was never a fan of her husband’s “look at me’’ tendencies or his run for office, even though Cain assured her it wouldn’t require much of her physically or emotionally. He was wrong.
“This is a very arrogant man,’’ says the friend. “It probably never occurred to him that all these women would eventually come out. It’s funny to see him talk about the toll on his wife. He never thought of that before.’’
Sources close to the campaign say Gloria Cain wants her husband to leave the race and has no desire to do additional interviews about their marriage or the constant accusations. They describe a woman angry that her life has been turned upside down by her husband’s need for attention and power by any means.
“She hated doing that interview defending him on Fox but felt pressured to do it by him and the campaign,’’ says a campaign worker. “She doesn’t want to be forced to do that again because she knows he’s had girlfriends for many years. She just looked the other way. But if he won’t get out of the race, she may have to.’’
Several of the people interviewed for this story said they believe Cain will do what’s best for him and not his family in deciding whether he’ll leave the race.
“What he says about concern for his wife and family sounds good,” said one family friend, “but if he meant it, he wouldn’t have gotten in the race in the first place.”
Michael Eric Dyson, author and sociology professor at Georgetown University, sees in Cain a man who began his campaign almost as a lark and then lost all perspective. “This is a guy who wanted to sell books and have his name known by the masses, not become president,’’ Dyson says. “He got a good run out it, and then somewhere along the way it hit him that maybe he could win it. Why not? The last black guy did. That’s just how confused Herman Cain is.’’
Dyson believe that whatever happens next, Cain wants to remain an important figure in the Republican Party. But “if he wants to be a Sarah Palin of sorts in the Republican Party, he has to get out now,” says Dyson. “If he wants the ability to give people his support and make them winners, he has no choice if he wants to avoid more coming. I want to tell him, ‘Brother, your time is up.’ ”