Long-time aide to Herman Cain leaving presidential campaign

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s longest serving aide is leaving his surging campaign, even as the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO polls in the top tier of the Republican field, The Daily Caller has learned.

Executive assistant Karleen Smith has worked for Cain since he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. In an email to TheDC, she said her departure from the Cain campaign has long been in the works.

“My husband retired in July and I am 59,” Smith said. “My husband and I have been planning this retirement for awhile. We are ‘young seniors’ and ready to travel across the U.S.”

While Smith, a former staffer to Georgia Republican Rep. Jack Kingston, said her last day on the payroll will be Nov. 18, that doesn’t mean she isn’t still behind Cain’s bid.

“You will still see me around — it’s too exciting not to be,” she said.

J.D. Gordon, a spokesman for Cain’s campaign, didn’t return TheDC’s request for comment on this story.

Cain’s campaign has seen its fair share of staff departures. Most recently, the campaign’s communications director, Ellen Carmichael, left the operation for other political consulting work. (RELATED: Carville: Cain is ‘a national distraction’)

The New York Times published a story on Thursday after interviewing several former Cain campaign staffers. The piece described the campaign as being in “disorder” with “problems in hiring, scheduling, fund-raising and messaging.”

One former staffer complained to the Times about an odd memo instructing staff who ride in cars with Cain not to speak to him unless he initiated the conversation.

The campaign is also showing signs that, with its increase in the polls and an influx of donations, it is staffing up in the early voting states.

Long-time GOP activist Steve Grubbs recently signed on to lead Cain’s Iowa campaign. The campaign this week also announced a group of new hires to run Cain’s operation in Florida.

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