12/03/2011 02:51 EST | Updated 02/02/2012 05:12 EST

Herman Cain suspends campaign amid sex scandals; says he's 'at peace' with wife

WASHINGTON - A defiant Herman Cain suspended his wildly entertaining but ultimately scandalous bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Saturday following weeks of sexual impropriety allegations that left "a cloud of doubt over me and my family."

"I am at peace with my God, I am at peace with my wife and she is at peace with me," Cain said in Atlanta on Saturday at an event that was supposed to mark the opening of his official campaign headquarters.

"With a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign, because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt on me and my family."

The rarely seen Gloria Cain, his wife of 43 years, was at her husband's side for the announcement, nodding emphatically when he forcefully told a crowd of supporters that all the sexual impropriety allegations against him are false. The supporters frequently chanted her name.

Four women, two of them publicly, have accused Cain of sexual harassment when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. The trade group settled with two women, while another, Sharon Bialek, went public last month to accuse Cain of trying to force her head to his crotch in an unwanted sexual advance in the same time period.

Yet another woman, Ginger White of Atlanta, alleged last week that she'd had a 13-year sexual affair with Cain that involved travel to other cities to see him, lavish gifts and fancy dinners.

Cain, 65, has said the woman is a friend, adding that he's given her money over the years because she's "destitute." But he flatly denied any affair despite text and cellphone records that show the two were in regular touch at all hours of the day and night as recently as a few weeks ago.

The undignified final derailment of the so-called Cain Train came after he unexpectedly surged in the polls to challenge Mitt Romney for frontrunner status. Primary voters liked his catchy "9-9-9" tax reform proposals, his "D.C. outsider" mantle and his folksy charm as a man who grew up in the segregated South but insisted racism never held him back.

But as he struggled to combat the sexual harassment revelations, Cain's troubles intensified on another front.

In an interview with a newspaper editorial board, Cain couldn't answer the simplest of questions about the Obama administration's Libya policies. His cringe-worthy efforts to formulate a response became a viral video sensation, and soon Cain's moderate descent in the polls due to the sexual impropriety allegations accelerated to a dramatic plunge.

He wasn't helped by an inexperienced campaign team. They flailed frantically in their efforts to deal with the scandal, frequently contradicting not only one another, but their loquacious candidate, with his penchant to go immediately public with off-the-cuff remarks on the various scandals.

Cain praised his supporters on Saturday for standing by him despite it all.

"Cain supporters are not warm-weather supporters, and I can't thank all of you enough for what you've done, how far we have come and the things that we have done," he said.

The wounded candidate apparently spent Saturday morning reaching out to rival campaigns.

Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for Minnesota lawmaker Michele Bachmann, told ABC News "we've received numerous inquiries from supporters and staffers in the various states about shifting their support from Cain to Michele."