URBANDALE, Iowa — In a small office in Herman Cain’s headquarters here, three volunteers and Cain’s communications director, Lisa Lockwood, crowded around a staffer’s laptop to watch their boss’ announcement. Lockwood said she was “surprised” and “disappointed” that Cain decided to suspend his campaign.
“I think he’s an awesome man and I think he would have been an awesome president. I still hold out hope that one day he will. I think he will continue to be a strong voice for the people and take a positive difference for our country,” Lockwood said.
She had no warning, watching to find out his decision along with six members of the press.
One volunteer, Linda Rudolph, gasped when Cain made his announcement.
“Dammit. I knew it,” she said, while Lockwood sat silent.
When asked if the former pizza executive’s decision to suspend his campaign made her second-guess whether the allegations of sexual harassment and an extramarital affair were true she said the former candidate had “been nothing but professional and wonderful to work with from my perspective,” but she didn’t say no.
“I’m not judge or jury. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s true or not. I’m not going to speculate, I believe in him,” Lockwood said. “I trust him.”
So unexpected was the decision at Cain’s headquarters that staff members were even moving around furniture earlier today to make room for staff from the national operation that was expected to come help in the lead-up to the caucuses.
After the announcement, Cain’s Iowa state director, Larry Tuel, as well as other supporters and volunteers began arriving to comfort one another. Despite the lack of volunteers phone banking, headquarters looked like a traditional campaign office: large Herman Cain 2012 signs lined the walls ready to hand out, volunteer sign-up sheets were on the wall with slots filled through the next week, candy bowls were full, and Cain paper materials littered tables throughout the office.
Tuel also found out Cain’s decision watching his boss on television. He said his reaction to the news was “good, surprisingly.”
“Because the rumors were swirling that Mr. Cain will close the campaign and that will be the end of Mr. Cain, and we would not hear from him again,” Tuel said. “And I think what he’s done is what — is extremely positive under the circumstances.”
Tuel said Sunday will be just like every other day he has spent here, except without a candidate.
“My next step will be to get up tomorrow and come down here just like I do every day and have every day for months and months and go about our business,” Tuel said. “There are things to be done yet.”
Despite being clearly upset and disappointed, Tuel called himself “an optimist.”
“I like a fight, and I think Herman Cain does, too. And I wanted to stay in, because I think we could do well in Iowa,” he said. “I think if we put the resources here, Herman Cain could do well in Iowa, despite what the polls say.”
There were no tears among staff, but volunteer Patti Spencer Burdette, who has been supporting him since January and was driving around the state Friday delivering signs, was overcome with emotion.
“I’m not a happy camper. But out of every pile of ashes phoenixes rise again. And I’m going to be a very pesky phoenix and we’ll find out where to go on,” Burdette said, pledging to continue to work for Cain in his new venture. “We love him and he loves us. We’re a family. And there’s sadness in the family.”
She blamed the press for “taking a good man and his family down.”
Her son Thom Moore also became emotional and teary eyed, “I feel like I’ve lost my best friend.”
“I lost all control of any capacity that I had, and it’s taking in me — no, it’s taking everything in me not to fall apart,” Moore said. “I’m going to find out what Mr. Cain needs. I honestly came in to ask the question, ‘Are we done? Do I pack up my stuff and go?’ And nobody knows.”