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The candidate's wife who stays in the shadows

SHE'S the most conspicuously missing figure on America's presidential stage.

Gloria Cain, wife of US Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain for 43 years, remains sheltered by neighbours, friends and family as her husband's campaign continues to be rocked by reports he was the subject of sexual harassment complaints when he led the National Restaurant Association.

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,, and I'm often asked, 'Where is your wife? Why isn't she campaigning with you?' 'She is at home,' I answer".

The tempest over allegations that Cain sexually harassed several women have drawn the net of privacy even more tightly around his wife.

Even before the harassment charges surfaced, officials at the 14,000-member Antioch Baptist Church North, where the Cains have attended for three decades, turned away inquiries about the couple.

Cain's campaign did not respond to requests for an interview with Mrs Cain and no one answered the phone at the couple's home.

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.

Herman and Gloria Cain met while both were in college in Atlanta. According to the account in Cain's book, the couple has had a faithful, exclusive and 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 idealised 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.