ATLANTA (Reuters) - She’s the most conspicuously missing figure on the presidential stage.
Gloria Cain, wife of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain for 43 years, remains hidden from the public eye behind the black aluminum fencing of the Eagle’s Landing Country Club, a gated golf community in the Atlanta suburb of McDonough.
The potential next first lady remains sheltered also by neighbors, friends and family as her husband’s campaign continues to be roiled by reports he was the subject of sexual harassment complaints when he led the National Restaurant Association more than a decade ago.
Much of what is known publicly about Mrs. Cain comes from her husband’s book, “This is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House.”
The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza makes no apology in the book for her near-invisibility as he seeks the highest office in the land.
“Some people have expectations concerning the traditional politician’s wife, though, and I‘m often asked, ‘Where is your wife? Why isn’t she campaigning with you?’ ‘She is at home,’ I answer,” he wrote.
The tempest over allegations that Cain sexually harassed several women have drawn the net of privacy even more tightly around his wife.
“There’s nothing to comment on,” said the man who answered the phone on Wednesday at Antioch Baptist Church North, where the Cains have attended services for three decades. He spoke with defiant finality before hanging up.
Even before the harassment charges surfaced, officials at the 14,000-member mega-church in northern Atlanta turned away inquiries about the couple.
Cain’s campaign did not respond to Reuters’ request for an interview with Mrs. Cain and no one answered the phone at the couple’s home. Phone messages left with neighbors went unanswered.
Since the uproar over the sexual harassment reports, which Cain has denied, he has been under pressure to bring his wife onto the public stage to affirm her continuing support for him and the solidity of their marriage.
Mrs. Cain, 65, is reportedly in talks with Fox News about doing an interview that could help determine the fate of her husband’s once-lightly regarded and then surging quest for the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the November 2012 election.
Mrs. Cain has rarely appeared with her genial, outgoing husband on the campaign trail. The most notable exception was when she helped him officially launch his campaign in May at Atlanta’s Centennial Park.
While her husband - a businessman, radio personality, motivational speaker and politician - has always welcomed and shined in the spotlight, Mrs. Cain has remained as far from it as possible.
That was true when he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and it has remained the case as Cain has made campaign stops, debated his rivals before national television audiences and toured book stores in cities that, in some cases, were far from the key states in the looming front-loaded presidential primary season.
Herman and Gloria Cain met while both were in college in Atlanta. He was a sophomore at Morehouse College and she was a freshman at Morris Brown College. According to the account in Cain’s book, the couple has had a faithful, exclusive, loving relationship since their first date.
They were married in June 1968 and have two grown children - Melanie and Vincent. Mrs. Cain worked briefly as a teacher and then a librarian. Mostly she has been a homemaker, her husband said.
Cain paints an idealized portrait of his wife in the book, citing her approval as an indication that God supported his decisions, and praising her traditional Southern cooking skills.
What kind of First Lady would she make?
“Gloria wants to come up with a ‘Grandmommy Project,’ something to do with the children,” he said in his book.
Editing by Jane Sutton and Vicki Allen