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Herman Cain's Big Announcement


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Herman Cain has an announcement scheduled in Atlanta today. The Republican presidential candidate is expected to say whether he'll continue his run for the White House after allegations this week that he had a 13-year, extramarital affair. Now earlier, Mr. Cain's campaign had been hit by allegations that he sexually harassed several women during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association. Mr. Cain has denied those claims, but all of this has damaged his standing in the polls.

NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea joins us in the studio. Don, thanks for being with us.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: My pleasure.

SIMON: Look, you're a seasoned correspondent. Your sources are impeccable. This kind of news always leaks out of a campaign, right? So do you know what Herman Cain's going to say?

GONYEA: We do not know. There have been some reports that he's likely to suspend his campaign, giving everything that's been swirling around. But this is - you may have heard, Scott - a very unconventional presidential campaign. A lot of people think he's just always been in it to sell books, and his schedule would perhaps support that theory, but he just has a very tiny group of advisers. They don't even seem to know. The only official word we have so far is from Mr. Cain himself.

We apologize in advance for kind of the bad quality audio of this, but this is what he said yesterday in South Carolina.

HERMAN CAIN: So tomorrow, we going to be opening our headquarters in northwest Georgia, where we will also clarify - there's that word again - clarify exactly what the next steps are.

GONYEA: Again, he has said he's going to talk his wife about this, see what she thinks and as of last night, we'd heard he hadn't actually made a decision.

SIMON: OK. And, of course, what mixes up the signals even a little bit more is that he's going to make the announcement at what is supposed to be the official opening of his brand-new campaign office.

GONYEA: Exactly. And it is a campaign that, until it stops or until it suspends itself or is suspended, seems to be going full speed ahead. In fact, Scott, just in the past couple of days, this ad went up in Iowa, kind of acting like there's nothing wrong anywhere.


SIMON: Help us understand the cumulative effect of the allegations this week and the sexual-harassment charges before that, because it seemed as if he was kind of holding his own after those first charges.

GONYEA: Exactly. In fact, he even bumped up a bit in some polls. So there seemed to be room to grow even after the first charges. There was a lot of discussion, a lot of rallying behind him as kind of the victim of what a lot of his supporters said were unsubstantiated- never mind that there were actually settlements made as part of those charges. But he has declined in the polls. We haven't seen the full measure of these latest allegations, but there is a Des Moines register poll coming out tonight.

But even with that, a lot of his support has already shifted to Newt Gingrich so that's fueled, in part, Gingrich's rise. But it is also worth pointing out here that yes, there have been scandals, but there have also been moments where he has stumbled and fumbled and awkwardly...

SIMON: On foreign policy questions...

GONYEA: ...on foreign policy questions. And that, too, has raised plenty of questions about whether or not he's ready. And all that has happened since the front-runner spotlight hit him.

SIMON: Yeah. In 40 seconds we have left, what does the rise and fall of this cycle tell about the Republican presidential nomination campaign so far?

GONYEA: It's a campaign like none that we have seen. And a lot of it is due to the, you know, presumptive front-runner Mitt Romney's inability to rise above a certain high-teens, low-20s threshold in polling. So then you have all of these anti-Romneys, not Romneys. And the only reason Herman Cain rose to the top was because of the implosion of the Rick Perry campaign. So it is very unsettled, to say the least. What would Gilbert and Sullivan do with such material?

SIMON: Well, they'd have a great time, and I'd like to hear the result. Don Gonyea, thanks very much for being with us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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