ATLANTA -- A defiant Herman Cain suspended his faltering bid for the Republican presidential nomination Saturday amid a drumbeat of sexual misconduct allegations against him, throwing his staunchly conservative supporters up for grabs just one month before the lead-off caucuses in Iowa.
Cain condemned the accusations as "false and unproven," but said they had been hurtful to his family, particularly his wife, Gloria, and were drowning out his ability to deliver his message. His wife stood behind him on the stage, smiling and waving.
"So as of today, with a lot of prayer and soul-searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distractions and the continued hurt caused on me and my family," Cain told about 400 supporters.
Cain's announcement came five days after an Atlanta-area woman, Ginger White, claimed that she and Cain had an affair for more than a decade, a claim that followed several allegations of sexual harassment against the Georgia businessman.
"Now, I have made many mistakes in life. Everybody has. I've made mistakes professionally, personally, as a candidate, in terms of how I run my campaign. And I take responsibility for the mistakes I've made, and I have been the very first to own up to any mistakes I've made," he said.
But he added, "I am at peace with my God. I am at peace with my wife. And she is at peace with me."
White's attorney said a in statement after the announcement that Cain had disparaged his client and should apologize. Cain had called her a "troubled Atlanta businesswoman" whom he had tried to help.
Cain's announcement provides a new twist in what already has been a volatile Republican race.
Newt Gingrich has, so far, been the biggest beneficiary of Cain's slide. Polls show Gingrich and Mitt Romney atop the field in what is shaping up as a two-man race heading into early voting states.
But others, such as Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, will likely make a strong play for Cain's anti-establishment tea party backing as they look to rise as a viable alternative to Romney, whose conservative credentials are suspect in some GOP circles.
Cain said he would offer an endorsement, and his former rivals were quick to issue statements on Saturday praising his conservative ideals.
At a tea party rally in Staten Island, Gingrich praised Cain for bringing optimism and big ideas to the race.
"He had the courage to launch the 9-9-9 plan, which, whether you liked it or disliked it, was a big idea and started to elevate the debate toward big solutions and not the usual nitpicking, consultant-driven negativity," Gingrich said.
He was referring to Cain's catchy but controversial plan to scrap the current tax code for a 9 percent tax on personal and corporate income as well as a new 9 percent national sales tax.