Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Gloria Cain: Can her 'stand by your man' moment make a difference?

Gloria Cain will appear on Fox News Monday night to defend her husband, who has been accused of sexual harassment. Gloria Cain could change the momentum or be 'too little, too late.'

By Contributor / November 14, 2011

Gloria Cain accompanies her husband Herman Cain as he announces his run as a Republican candidate for president in Atlanta earlier this year.

David Goldman/AP/File

Enlarge

When Gloria Cain appears on Fox News Monday night, she will enter the sorority of political wives who have advocated for their husbands despite the salacious allegations against them – many of which have proved to be true.

Skip to next paragraph

Ms. Cain will tell Greta Van Susteren that the Herman Cain she knows would never force himself upon a woman, according to an advance transcript. It is, it would seem, a vote of confidence that Mr. Cain urgently needs.

Candidate Cain is new to the political scene and his campaign's handling of the allegations so far has failed to quiet the media storm. A new CNN poll shows Cain slipping to third behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Ms. Cain's appearance could be the campaign's best hope to give her husband's denials more credibility and change the momentum.

Before now, Cain's wife of 43 years has not appeared on the campaign trail except for her husband's May announcement of his entry into the race. But with primary voters starting to cast ballots in January, it is imperative that Cain work quickly to restore trust among his supporters. 

“If a woman does not get up and defend her husband in the face of allegations, defend his character, she might as well be dooming his candidacy,” says Ruth Mandel, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University and an expert on women and politics.

Ms. Cain did have another choice. Obviously averse to the 24/7 floodlights of modern politicking, she could have opted to remain silent. She would not have been alone in that decision.

In recent years, Jenny Sanford and Huma Abedin have told their badly behaving lawmaker spouses to face the cameras alone. Ms. Sanford left her husband, then Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, while he was still in office and after he admitted to having an affair. Ms. Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has stayed with her disgraced husband, Anthony Weiner, whose graphic cyber-dalliances led to his political downfall. But she didn’t appear with him at the tearful – and cringe-inducing – press conference during which he outlined his indiscretions.

Gender roles, and how they have shifted from one generation to the next, could play a part in what spouses feel bound to do, say experts. Both Secretary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards – like Ms. Cain – are Baby Boomers. 

Clinton famously stood by her man when word broke during the 1992 Democratic primary contest of his relationship with Gennifer Flowers. Ms. Edwards at first stuck by John Edwards when reports surfaced during the 2008 Democratic primary race that he had strayed. Both were instrumental in keeping the public’s faith in their men.

When Edwards later abandoned her husband’s cause – he fathered a child with the woman he had denied seeing and is under federal investigation for funneling campaign money to – so did the American people.

Permissions

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story