Cain on Cain
The former frontrunner reflects on his abortive run.


Robert Costa

On quitting: Cain’s decision to leave the race was as much Gloria Cain’s as his own. “I got home that Friday,” he recalls and faced his wife for the first time since Ginger White accused Cain of conducting a decade-long affair. “She said to me, ‘tell me your side of the story from start to finish.’ So I sat down and walked her through it, all the way from the first allegation.” She asked questions “and she cross-examined me,” he says. “At the end of that, she said ‘I believe you, I love you.’” It wasn’t emotional, no tears or yelling, “just straightforward.”

On books: When it comes to critics who describe his campaign as a glorified book tour, Cain has little patience. “Bull feathers,” he says. “They don’t know me. I would not run for president just to sell books. I had already sold tens of thousands of copies of my previous four books, which were published before I ran for president.” He notes that Michele Bachmann also touted a book on the trail as part of her strategy, “so why was it a big deal I had a book out while running?”

No regrets: Cain does not regret giving money to Ginger White to help her with her bills, or making the payments without informing his wife about the transactions. “I’m a giving person,” he says. “She’s not the only person, or the only time I have given financial help to someone who was, quite frankly, destitute. The hurtful part was that I thought she was accepting the help as a friend, in the spirit that it was given. But she decided to go a different route.”

The media: When Cain launched his campaign, “I didn’t realize how vicious it was and I didn’t realize how one-sided it was,” he says. “For the people who say we could have handled it differently, send me the plan. . . . If I make a mistake, criticize me fairly. But if you’re going to take a tape that’s 40 minutes long and pull out 15 seconds and forget about the other 39 minutes and 45 seconds, that’s a disservice to the American people. It gives [journalism] a bad name.”

Advice given: “Anticipate everything,” Cain says, when asked what he would tell future conservative insurgents about presidential bids. “Early on, go to your supporters and tell them that if you begin to gain in the polls, the character assassinations will start. Alert them to that fact; tell them not to be surprised.” His campaign, he says, “didn’t sit around strategizing about what to do when that happened,” and ended up suffering the consequences. “We thought we’d get a fair shake by the media and in the court of public opinion. We were wrong,” he says.

Advice received: As the sexual-harassment controversy unfolded, Cain ran into former president George H. W. Bush at a football game in Houston. “I went by to say hello, to see him and Mrs. Bush. He said, ‘Can I give you some advice?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir, please!’ He said, ‘Don’t let the bastards get you.’ I said, ‘Can I quote you?’ He said, ‘Yes, because I don’t care what they say.’” For Cain, that’s a treasured memory from the trail.