WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The campaign trail did not end at the White House for Herman Cain, but it might yet lead him to a pot of gold.
The former restaurant executive and motivational speaker could translate his sudden fame into hefty speaking fees and a nationwide talk-radio audience now that he has abandoned his campaign, according to executives in the public speaking, broadcast and publishing industries.
Industry experts say that post-campaign, Cain could triple his speaking fee to more than $50,000 - nearly as much as charged by Newt Gingrich, the current front-runner in the Republican nomination race.
“He’s crossed into the celebrity speaker status now,” said one executive with 25 years of experience in the public speaking industry.
Bigger prizes, like a television talk show or a lucrative book deal, are less likely due to his messy exit from the race and relatively short tenure in the public eye, agents and executives say.
Still, Cain’s roller-coaster bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, which ended on Saturday amid allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity, has opened up plenty of opportunities.
“Cain is worth more money now than he was before,” said Michael Harrison, the publisher of Talkers, a trade publication that covers the talk-radio industry.
Cain has amassed considerable wealth over his career as a business executive. His most recent financial disclosure form put his net worth between $2.9 million and $6.8 million.
He has remained mum since dropping out of the race, though he has signaled that he might endorse another candidate within days. Former campaign officials are setting up a website called The Cain Solutions to promote policies like his “9-9-9” tax reform, according to ABC News.
For moneymaking ideas, he can look to others who have earned millions after leaving politics.
Former President Bill Clinton received a $15 million advance for his memoirs. Former President George W. Bush has made at least that much in speaking fees since leaving office in 2009, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Even those who lose elections can win big paydays.
Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008, earned at least $12 million from speeches and television and book deals in eight months after quitting as Alaska Governor in July 2009, according to ABC.
Cain is not likely to reach that level of success - he has never held public office, and he dropped out of the presidential race before the first votes were cast.
The allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity that drove him from the race could also hamper his prospects if he does not resolve the issue, either by admitting guilt and apologizing or producing proof that they are unfounded, a Republican strategist said.
“If he wants to be a public figure, to max out his potential he needs to deal with that issue,” said Rick Tyler, a former aide to Gingrich.
Cain earned roughly $100,000 per year as host of a conservative talk radio show in Atlanta before he launched his presidential bid, according his personal disclosure form.
Cain was a skillful broadcaster but not widely known within the industry, said Harrison, the Talkers publisher. Now he could appeal to a national audience.
“I think he’s got what’s known as presidential pixie dust all over him,” Harrison said.
A new book would give Cain a chance to boost his profile as well but several publishing-industry executives said his appeal is limited at this point.
The market for political books tends to track the popularity of their authors, and Cain could be a marginal figure by the time a new book would reach shelves a year from now.
“I’d be very surprised if we’re still talking about Herman Cain in six months,” said Peter Osnos, editor at large of Public Affairs Books, which has published books by Vladimir Putin and George Soros.
Cain’s autobiography, “This Is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House” has sold about 32,000 retail copies since it was released in October, but sales have dropped sharply in recent weeks along with Cain’s poll standings. That is a respectable figure, according to one publishing executive who spoke on condition of anonymity, but far short of the 115,000 retail copies that Gingrich’s latest nonfiction book has sold since its release in June.
Cain’s publisher, Threshold Editions, said there are 155,000 copies of his autobiography in print, but declined further comment.
Cain’s prospects in television are likewise murky.
The sexual allegations by five women are not enough to keep him off the air, several industry experts said - after all, CNN hired Eliot Spitzer after a prostitution scandal drove him from the New York state governor’s office.
But Spitzer’s brief tenure on the air showed that staying on the air can be as difficult as getting there in the first place.
Cain’s skills as an orator and broadcaster are offset by high-profile gaffes - such as his cringe-inducing inability to state a clear policy on Libya. It is not clear whether he would have the depth to cover a range of topics or the discipline to succeed in a tightly scripted, highly produced environment such as a television talk show, several experts said.
“He could be a novelty act at the beginning, but then at a certain point he’d have to have substance,” said Bill LaPlante, executive director of Media Alliance, an agency for television journalists.
Even so, it is possible he could get a shot.
“You can’t apply science and rationality to it, because science and rationality don’t matter - it’s show business,” said Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.
Cain’s campaign reported $1.3 million in cash at the end of September, the last period for which data is available, with $675,000 in debts. Cain saw an uptick in fundraising as his popularity increased and raised several million dollars in October, according to his campaign.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham