Businessman Herman Cain says he's suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination to avoid news coverage that is hurtful to his family.
Cain's announcement came five days after an Atlanta-area woman claimed she and Cain had an affair for more than a decade, a claim that followed several allegations of sexual harassment against the Georgia businessman. Cain, whose wife stood behind him on the stage, made the announcement before several hundred supporters gathered at what was to have been the opening of his national campaign headquarters.
Cain had surged in polls until news surfaced in late October that he had been accused of sexual harassment by two women during his time as president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
The former Godfather's Pizza chief executive has never held elected office, rose to become an unexpected front-runner in the volatile Republican race just weeks ago. A self-styled outsider, Cain enjoyed strong tea party support from conservatives who viewed him as an alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
But once in the national spotlight, Cain fumbled policy questions, leaving some to wonder whether he was ready for the presidency. Then it was revealed at the end of October that the National Restaurant Association had paid settlements to two women who claimed Cain sexually harassed them while he was president of the organization.
A third woman told The Associated Press that Cain made inappropriate sexual advances but that she didn't file a complaint. A fourth woman also stepped forward to accuse Cain of groping her in a car in 1997.
Cain has denied wrongdoing in all cases.
Polls suggest his popularity has suffered. A Des Moines Register poll released Friday showed Cain's support plunging, with backing from 8 percent of Republican caucus-goers in Iowa, compared with 23 percent a month ago.
Fundraising has also fallen off. He issued an email appeal to supporters on Friday asking for donations, in an attempt to gauge whether his financial support has dried up.
"I need to know that you are behind me 100 percent," Cain told backers. "In today's political environment, the only way we can gauge true support is by the willingness of our supporters to invest in this effort."
On Friday, Cain urged backers in South Carolina to look past the allegations.
"There's a lot of garbage on the Internet. There's a lot of garbage out there on the TV. There's a lot of garbage out there about me, don't you know? There's a lot of misinformation out there. You have to stay informed and check out the facts for yourself," Cain said.
He added: "I'm on this journey for a reason. I don't look back."
Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in South Carolina and Steve Peoples in New Hampshire contributed to this report.
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