STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, his campaign brought low by allegations of sexual misconduct, says he won’t decide about continuing his fight for the nomination until he has a face-to-face talk with his wife, possibly as early as Friday.
In the meantime, Cain says he is planning an aggressive campaign schedule across several U.S. states in an attempt to reinvigorate a candidacy that had moved him briefly into a neck-an-neck contest with Mitt Romney, the favorite of the Republican establishment as the party’s candidate to challenge President Barack Obama next year.
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Despite repeated denials of any wrongdoing, Cain has seen his support and donations dwindle under the weight of allegations of sexual harassment and, early this week, a claim by 46-year-old Ginger White’s that she had a 13-year extramarital affair with the candidate.
As polls show Obama’s approval at record lows, Republicans should be in a strong position to block his re-election and retake the White House. Obama has been hurt by the economy’s lackluster performance, high unemployment and the perception of many of his Democratic supporters that he hasn’t delivered on political promises.
But the Republican primary contest remains in turmoil.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist, has held front-runner status through most of the early going, but — with about a month left before the states begin making their choice of candidate in caucuses and primary elections — the contest appears to be a toss-up.
Romney has been unable to entice the support of conservative Republicans and members of its tea party wing. He is viewed as too moderate on issues that determine conservative ideological purity. That has left him vulnerable to a series of challenges, first from Rep. Michele Bachmann, then Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Cain. They have all risen quickly into contention and just as rapidly fallen back as their flaws became evident.
Now, Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives, has rocketed past Romney in many polls as Cain struggles with the allegations of sexual misconduct and serious stumbles on important policy questions.
Cain is now saying he is reassessing and waiting until he talks in person with his wife before deciding whether to continue his campaign.
“I am not going to make a decision until after we talk face to face,” which could happen as soon as Friday, Cain told reporters gathered at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters Wednesday night.
Cain said he had spoken to his wife only by phone since Monday, the day White went on an Atlanta, Georgia, television station to make her allegations of the long affair. Since then, aides have crafted a packed campaign schedule with stops in several states and prepared to launch a fresh round of TV ads in Iowa, which holds the first nomination contest on Jan. 3.
But many Republican operatives believe Cain’s bid is over whether he quits or not.
“I don’t see how they walk away from the damage that’s been done and emerge as a viable primary candidate,” said Rick Wilson, a longtime Republican consultant. “All these things about Herman Cain keep coming out drip, drip, drip, and they’re not handling it well. And now conservative Republicans have another place to go: Newt Gingrich.”
While Cain has steadfastly rejected allegations of misbehavior, he has countercharged that the allegations are the work of political liberals and the Republican establishment, who are threatened by his outsider appeal.
Associated Press writers Shannon McCaffrey in Atlanta, Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, Tom Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, and Kasie Hunt in New York contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.