It's unclear, at this point, whether allegations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain will badly damage his standing in the polls. Will one of the accusers speak publicly? Will Cain be humiliated by more revelations? Only time will tell. But as Cain continues to vigorously defend his good name, he has more at stake than his (likely slim) chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination. He's also, simultaneously, struggling to protect his business plan.
From the day he formed an exploratory committee back in January, many assumed that Cain entered the presidential race merely to raise his profile — which hardly existed outside of Georgia, where he hosted a talk-radio show and ran for Senate in 2004 — and fatten his wallet. (Which is already doing pretty well, by the way: Thanks to a successful career as a businessman, lobbying executive, board member, motivational speaker, and investor, Cain is now worth between $2.8 million and $6.3 million, according to his financial disclosure filings.)
Cain would hardly be the first person to attempt such a strategy. In fact, he wouldn't even be the first to attempt it this year. Hell, only a few months ago, Donald Trump was adamantly insisting to anyone who would listen (which was everybody) that he was deadly serious about running for president this time. It wasn't until after he secured record ratings for Celebrity Apprentice, and another big check from NBC for signing on to the show's next season, that Trump announced what nearly everyone had expected all along — he wasn't running after all.
If making gobs of money was indeed Cain's primary motivation, it appears that his bet has paid off even more marvelously than Trump's. A nearly unknown former pizza-chain CEO less than a year ago, Cain is now the most talked-about figure in politics, and the publicity has already been a boon to his personal coffers. Throughout his campaign, Cain has continued to give motivational speeches, telling Bloomberg News in mid-October that he's earned about $250,000 in paid speeches over the past year, at $25,000 a pop. Meanwhile, Cain's book, This Is Herman Cain: My Journey to the White House, has sold 26,000 copies since it's October 4 debut, according to Nielsen BookScan, thanks in part to Cain's decision to promote it in appearances around the country while almost completely ignoring important early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Assuming that his reputation isn't harmed too badly by the sexual harassment scandal — and so far, Republican voters don't seem too bothered by it — the real windfall will take place after the Caindidacy ends. First, Cain will have plenty of material for a new book, and will be set for a huge payday if he writes one, according to Peter Matson, an agent at Sterling Lord Literistic. Assuming that "Cain’s candidacy doesn’t flame out ingloriously, that other events don’t overtake his current celebrity, AND that a book proposal had some substance," Cain could be looking at a seven-figure deal, worth "perhaps as much as $2 million," said Matson, who represented Mitt Romney for his recent book No Apology.
Then there's paid speaking gigs. From the $25,000 per speech fee he's been receiving currently, Cain could probably pull in up to an additional $10,000 per speech after the campaign ends, says Mark Castel, president of the Boston-based AEI Speakers Bureau. David Lavin, president of Lavin Agency, estimated Cain could even command as much as $75,000 for a speech. "If he wanted to maximize his revenues as a speaker," Lavin tells us, "he could easily make over a million dollars a year."
Of course, Cain's value as a speaker depends not only on maintaining his reputation, but also on maintaining his visibility. "Celebrity is only as good as peoples' memory," Castel says, "so it would all depend on what he did after his political life if he does not get elected. If he had a hit TV show on Fox, yeah I think he's going to make more money [giving speeches]. If he's just going to be Herman Cain, retired, doing speaking engagements, I'm not sure that he can command as much."
Enter the third leg of Cain's money stool: A cable news gig. Since 9-9-9 practically describes the number of Republican politicians on Fox News's payroll, that network would be an obvious destination. But CNN, which has recently beefed up its bench of conservative analysts with Red State's Erick Erickson, Big Journalism editor Dana Loesch, and former Bush speechwriter David Frum, could be a player in the Cainstakes as well. Wherever he lands, Cain's not-always-totally-informed opinions could be worth $600,000 to $750,000 a year as a contributor or host of his own show, according to a well-placed cable news source. That's not quite Sarah Palin money (Fox pays her $1 million year) but it would easily surpass Mike Huckabee's $500,000 salary.
Between a $2 million book deal, a million dollars in speaking fees, and $750,000 as a cable news talking head, Cain's business-plan candidacy could end up being worth as much as $3.75 million — and that's just the first year. But his haul won't be quite so bountiful if his reputation morphs from "wholesome, inspirational problem solver" into "creepy sexual predator." As Cain fights to retain his best-in-class favorability ratings, those millions can't be far from his thoughts.