Cain held a Friday night meeting with his wife, Gloria, who has stayed mostly silent as several women accused her husband of sexual harassment and an Atlanta businesswoman this week said she had carried out a 13-year affair with him.
Gloria Cain stood behind her husband on stage as he spoke in their home state of Georgia on Saturday.
He declared: “The statement I want to make to you today is that I am at peace with my God. I am at peace with my wife. And she is at peace with me. And I am at peace with my family and I am at peace with myself.”
“I am proof that a common man could lead this nation,” he said, his lip trembling “I consider myself to be one of you, not one of the political elites.
“But as false accusations about me continue they have sidetracked and distracted my ability to present solutions to the American people,” Herman Cain said.
“As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign, because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt caused on me and my family.”
Mr Cain, who became an unexpected favourite of conservative Republicans until a series of women made claims of sexual harassment against him, admitted making mistakes.
“I’ve made mistakes professionally, personally, as a candidate, in terms of how I run my campaign. And I take responsibility for the mistakes that I’ve made. And I’ve been the very first to own up to any mistakes I’ve made,” Cain said.
Mr Cain, a charismatic former chief executive of the Godfather’s pizza chain and one-time president of the National Restaurant Association (NRA), seized the imaginations of many conservative activists.
His simple pitch of “I am not a politician. I am a problem solver” excited many supporters of the low-tax, small-government Tea Party movement. His “9-9-9” economic plan – a nine percent national sales tax, income tax and business transactions tax – was hailed for its boldness and simplicity.
Unexpectedly, Mr Cain was top of the national polls, edging ahead of Mr Romney in late October, and also making a strong showing in the first-voting state of Iowa.
Just as his poll numbers reached their zenith, it was revealed that the NRA had paid settlements to two women who claimed that he sexually harassed them in the late 1990s.
A third woman said that Mr Cain made inappropriate sexual advances but that she had not filed a complaint. Other stories of predatory behaviour emerged.
Then came the high-profile New York press conference of Sharon Bialek, 50, who gave a graphic description of how Mr Cain had lunged at her in a parked car in 1997, pulling her head down towards his crotch and putting his hand up her skirt. She said that when he resisted him his reaction was: “You want a job, right?”
It was, moreover, a description not just of an unwanted advance but of a sexual assault. Mr Cain continued denying all accusations.
Then came Ginger White telling Fox 5 in Atlanta that the pair had conducted a 13-year affair that began in the late 1990s after he had made an NRA presentation and he invited her back to his hotel room.
As much as the sexual harassment allegations, his campaign never really recovered from the moment in Wisconsin when he struggled to recall which country Libya was during a video-taped discussion with theMilwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board.
“OK, Libya,” Cain said, looking upwards. “President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gaddafi. Just wanted to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say, ‘Yes, I agreed. No, I didn’t agree.’
“I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason.” He then stopped and said: “Nope, that’s a different one.” Shifting in his chair, adjusting his jacket and looking up again, he explained; “I got all this stuff twirling around in my head.”
Cain’s departure shapes the wide-open Republican race more clearly into a matchup between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and surging rival Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives. [via The Telegraph, Reuters and Huffington Post]