As a boss, Herman Cain made it a habit to stop by and talk to his employees, even the lowest-ranking. Often, he suggested that staffers, men and women, continue the conversation over drinks or dinner — one of many ways he blurred lines between the social and professional. He admitted that he hated to eat alone.
As he hit the campaign trail Thursday for the first time since the accusations surfaced nearly two weeks ago, his campaign said he had raised $9 million in the past six weeks. And the candidate expressed surprise at the size of the crowd he attracted to a morning event in Michigan, where more than 100 tea party supporters gathered to see him.
“I thought I was just going to sit down with a couple of people and have some bacon and eggs,” said Cain, once again exuding confidence, seemingly recovered from the moments last week when he was seen wiping his brow under questioning.
Thursday night, a potential obstacle for Cain to move beyond the story was seemingly cleared. A woman who had accused him of sexual harassment and had been seeking to organize a news conference with the other three accusers said that two of them had not responded to her requests to come forward. She said she would have no more comment and would not publicly detail her claims until all four agreed to do so.
When Cain describes how he would take charge of an ailing nation, he often cites his experience running Godfather’s Pizza and the National Restaurant Association, the job he held when, according to the allegations, he harassed the women. Those years in the private sector also offer a window into his personal style as a boss and leader.
As a chief executive, he was as comfortable conducting business across a dinner table as from behind a desk. At the restaurant industry’s annual trade gathering in Chicago, he was a big presence, holding meetings in an expansive top-floor hotel suite.
Stephen Caldeira, an association executive, said he never thought Cain’s casual style with the staff was a problem. “I never saw it as an issue. The staff worked hard, Herman worked hard,” said Caldeira, who was senior vice president of communications during Cain’s time at the association and later followed him to a technology start-up.
During his years as leader of the restaurant association, Cain lived alone in Washington, while his wife stayed in Omaha. The association paid for an apartment, car service, first-class airline travel, country club dues and, often, Cain’s restaurant tabs, said one current association official, who requested anonymity to speak frankly.
“He lived a great lifestyle,” the official said. “Meetings and whatever, he would hang out in the bar . . . late into the night,” often with staffers.
Several of Cain’s detractors and supporters describe a chief executive with an active social life, eager to build relationships.