Minutes after Herman Cain disappointed a raucous crowd in Atlanta by announcing his withdrawal from the presidential race, The Daily Beast asked him in an exclusive interview how he felt about the decision.
“The only regret I have is the way my family was treated and the endless spinning of false accusations,” Cain said.
“It wasn’t the work on the campaign, it wasn’t the support, it wasn’t not being able to raise money,” he said. “No—it’s just one of the things that is just the way it is. So you get to a point and you just have to make a decision. And that’s the decision we made."
After four days of reassessing his presidential campaign and assessing the future with his wife, Cain explained his decision to 300 assembled supporters.
“I am at peace with my God. I am at peace with my wife,” Cain said in his speech. “And she is at peace with me,” Cain said, with his wife, Gloria, at his side, noting that he would "suspend" his campaign, which enables him to keep raising money.
"That's the bad news. Here's the good news: I am not going to be silenced, and I am not going away."
Cain's departure did not surprise political insiders, who had seen his fundraising dry to a trickle and poll numbers plummet to single digits after repeated allegations of sexual harassment and a 13-year extramarital affair with Ginger White, an Atlanta woman who went public Monday.
But Cain’s withdrawal from the race was a sucker punch for the volunteers on the Cain Train, many of whom had come to the Atlanta event to open the campaign's new headquarters and left disappointed—in many cases, in tears.
“I’m devastated,” said Jeanne Seaver, who had given a rousing pep talk for volunteers before Cain appeared and called herself a friend. “He’s got to do what’s best for his family. I think the country lost a great leader, for the time.” Seaver added that she never believed the allegations against Cain, and still doesn’t.
“It’s another high-tech lynching that’s going on,” said Dominique Huff, an African-American. “They did it to Clarence Thomas and they’re doing it to Herman Cain.”
Rupert Parchment had also spoken to the crowd before Cain came on stage and said he had no idea that the former pizza executive would drop out of the Republican race before he heard Cain say it himself. But he, too, thought the allegations against him were a deliberate political attack.
“I’m usually a person who thinks that where there’s smoke there’s fire,” said. “But there’s such a thing as arson, too.”
Parchment and Seaver said they planned to throw their support behind Rick Santorum, the only other candidate they deem sufficiently conservative on social issues. “Sorry, I am not a Newt supporter,” Seaver said.
“Family-values conservative?” Parchment said. “Santorum’s my guy.”
Cain worked the rope line for 45 minutes after the event until he made it back to the campaign bus, which was emblazoned with “Herman Cain 2012!”
“Don’t worry. Don’t worry,” he said with a smile, grabbing arms and shaking hands. “We’re not done.”
With his Secret Service detail by his side and his wife a few steps back, he seemed to be trying to soak up the last bit of magic from the people who still clearly adored him.
When I asked what he’s doing Sunday, Cain smiled and rattled off the schedule of someone who’s still in the hunt, or wants to be.
“I’m going to Oklahoma tomorrow, going to give a speech at a Republican event that has already been planned,” he said. “I told you, I’m not going to be silenced. I’m still going. I just won’t be going as a candidate.