The Unseriousness Of Herman Cain’s Campaign For The Presidency

There are two newspaper articles out today picking up on a theme I noted yesterday, that Herman Cain isn’t really situated to capitalize on his rise in the polls because he isn’t running a serious campaign for the White House.

First, The New York Times takes not of the fact that Cain’s “unconventional” campaign is in no way operating in a manner that is designed to actually win anything:

On a whirlwind trip through New York City this week that marked the beginning of a nearly monthlong book tour, Herman Cain chatted with the hosts of ABC’s “The View,” promoted his new memoir on Fox News, met local titans like Donald Trump, shared ideas with former Mayor Edward I. Koch and enjoyed power lunching in Midtown.

Mr. Cain, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, did all but one thing — campaign. Not in the traditional meet-the-public and kiss-the-babies sense, anyway.

And according to his public campaign calendar of events, where 19 of the 31 days of October are blank, there will not be much glad-handing in the immediate future. That is just fine with Mr. Cain, a former business executive who has recently surged to the top tier of candidates in early polls. The latest Quinnipiac University poll, released Wednesday, found Mitt Romney and Mr. Cain essentially tied within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

“I’m trying to run this campaign like a start-up business, which means lean and mean,” Mr. Cain said in an interview on Tuesday, wearing his signature black cowboy hat. “There’s a new sheriff in town.”

(…)

It is not clear that Mr. Cain, 65, has any particular plan to seize this moment, beyond using the attention to sell books. Like the other candidates vying to become credible alternatives to Mr. Romney and Mr. Perry, Mr. Cain is operating on a shoestring. He raised $2 million last spring. More money is coming in, he said, and he has 40 staff members, mostly in Southern states. Still, an adviser to the campaign said the campaign had only four people working in Iowa, and there is no plan to change strategy.

Many Republicans doubt this will be enough to launch Mr. Cain in the crucial early states, especially if he decides to avoid retail politics.

“No candidate can afford to spend two or three weeks not being in New Hampshire this year,” said Steve Duprey, a Republican National Committee member from the state. ”He has not made as much progress organizing in New Hampshire as he could have, but there’s time.”

When asked why he would launch a book tour while running for the presidential nomination, Mr. Cain said that “the two complement one another” and that the benefits go beyond raising his name recognition among voters — one of his main goals.

“It was a gamble on the part of Simon & Schuster,” he said. “They get kudos for believing in me and this campaign. Now they’re going to cash in. That’s the way it works.”

The publishing house is not the only beneficiary, of course. So is Mr. Cain, whose most recent occupation is that of professional keynote speaker. His fee is $25,000 a speech. He also runs his own leadership consulting company. The two roles continue to play a large part in his daily schedule, which is why his October campaign plans seem so spare, he explained. Mr. Cain said there was also a good bit of fund-raising happening behind the scenes.

Mr. Cain rejected the suggestion that he was not taking the early primary states seriously enough, saying he had made 28 trips to Iowa since the beginning of the year. “We have a strong base there and will be going back,” he said. “We didn’t have a front-loaded Iowa-New Hampshire strategy. No, we’ve got a multistate strategy, so we’ll get back to Iowa in due time.”

And the Wall Street Journal continues on the organizational theme:

Some former Cain campaign staffers say Mr. Cain appears to lack organizational focus. His campaign has no regular conference calls or team meetings, and it has lacked a campaign manager for much of his bid. …

“Organization was a real challenge,” [former Cain adviser Matt] Murphy said. “New Hampshire is an ideal state for a candidate like him without a lot of name recognition or money for advertising. But his strategy has seemed more like a national campaign than a targeted, state-by-state local one.”

Mr. Cain’s latest book tour has raised those fears anew because it includes stops in states that don’t vote early, like his coming visit to a Costco in suburban Virginia.

Add in to all of this the appearance of Mark Block, Cain’s Campaign Manager and Chief of Staff on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown

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Watching that video, it strikes me that Block has no realistic plan for capitalizing on this poll bump, and no idea of how to go about creating one. With someone like that running his campaign, it’s pretty clear Herman Cain really isn’t taking this campaign seriously.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. Susan McHugh says:

    I just love comments from ‘former staffers’. Cain started this campaign as a grassroots candidate, raising funds through social media and wowing local audiences wherever he went. Here’s a theory: at some point if the mainstream GOP won’t recognize him even though he is TIED with their fave Romney, it is mandatory for the man himself to meet wIth those with large pursestrings and influence to add to the coffers. Of all the candidates Cain has the most compelling reasons for running. He is a cancer survivor who most likely is grateful every day to be alive and living in the USA. Maybe he feels this is his time to give back to his country what it has given him: opportunities he chose to pursue despite the odds against him. #teaparty

  2. CB says:

    @Susan McHugh:

    nowhere did you refute, or even acknowledge, the fact that cain simply isnt running a real campaign. you can talk about grassroots and ‘unorthodox’ campaigns all you want, but if you willfully adopt a strategy that leaves you zero chance of winning, youre nothing more than a vanity candidate. and thats all herman cain is.

  3. OldSouth says:

    I watch his campaign with interest, and would be hesitant to dismiss him quite this early. I’m a very modest contributor, not necessarily because I think he is our next secular messiah, destined for the Oval Office, but because he has valuable things to say, and a biography that inspires.

    He may have a better handle on how to run his campaign than the pundits suspect, as well.

    it will be interesting to see what happens as 2012 approaches.

    Great blog, as always, keep up your good work.

    OS

  4. samwide says:

    “I’m trying to run this campaign like a start-up business, which means lean and mean…”

    What’s the failure rate for start-ups? But anyway, hey, Herm’s having the time of his life, flying here and there. On the TV and everything. Hanging with Don Trump and Ed Koch, “power lunching in Midtown”. C’mon, Jeebus, wouldn’t you?

  5. Casey says:

    Everything about Cain is unconventional…and I LOVE IT!

  6. OldSouth says:

    …and, may I add, I would be delighted to see him elected to the office, and am willing to work and donate toward that goal.

    OS

  7. Jay Tea says:

    Doug’s definition of “serious” is “conventional” and “says and does the kinds of things I approve of.” Those who defy his wisdom are “not serious.”

    Once you get your head around that, it all makes perfect sense…

    J.

  8. Jay,

    The man has no campaign organization. He isn’t going to Iowa or New Hampshire any time in the next four weeks. This is not the schedule of a man who is serious about running for President.

  9. Rick Almeida says:

    @Jay Tea:

    As a businessman, Mr. Cain surely must give a fair bit of deference to “things that have worked for years”. Campaigning to get votes is arguably a necessity. Cain’s comments seem more like dotcom-era “transformative” drivel than a plan to win the Republican nomination.

    And if his plan isn’t to win the Republican nomination, then it strikes me as reasonable to dub him a “vanity candidate”.

  10. MM says:

    Cain defenders in 2011 are sounding an awful lot like Paul defenders did in 2007. Next up: He’s even more popular than Romney because polls undercount cellphones! At least Paul had impressive donation numbers to make it somewhat believable.

  11. JoeSixPack says:

    This man is self made and knows how to win. He has a terrific biography and should scare the daylights out of the left and establishment right. He has half the name recognition of Romney or Perry and yet finds himself in a statistical tie in the polls. He’s making headlines every day, he’s doing a million TV and radio appearances and winning more support with every interview. How come no one sees the obvious? A book tour at the same moment that Christie and Palin were set to announce (or not) and suck all the oxygen out of the campaign? Perfect timing!

  12. MM says:

    I hope some of the posters here are getting paid for this….

  13. mantis says:

    Doug’s definition of “serious” is “conventional” and “says and does the kinds of things I approve of.”

    Actually, Doug’s entire post dealt with Cain’s campaign organization and calendar, not with stuff Cain says. Jay Tea loves loves loves his straw. He knocks those dastardly men down and flails around in it.

    Jay, here’s a clue for you. A candidate can be as unconventional as he/she wants, but will not win the nomination if he/she cannot recognize the reality of modern elections. There are these things called primaries and caucuses, which are staggered through the early part of the year. Campaigns interact with the public and the media in fairly predictable ways, and getting the public’s attention and maintaining it requires some expertise in scheduling, recruiting supporters and campaign workers, dealing with the media, and the ability to adjust to events as they happen. Winning primaries and caucuses requires candidates go and meet the voters in the states, not just hanging around New York and occasionally going on TV to promote a book.

    It is not the slightest bit unreasonable, nor a sign of personal animus, that Doug points out Cain’s ineptitude at organizing a solid campaign. When he goes down in flames, you’ll understand (or you would if you had the capacity to recognize reality).

  14. Jay Tea says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, the “serious” way to run ended with a lot of candidates ending up in second. Cain started from zero and is now is consistently in the top three, sometimes top two — and that can NOT be explained entirely by “he’s not Romney or Perry.” His style’s worked pretty well so far; you wanna tell him to dump it and act like John McCain or Bob Dole?

    I’m not saying he has it sewn up, or that I’d even vote for him (although he is my current favorite). But he’s got an organization here in NH, he’s been here a few times, and we New Hampshirites like those who every now and then tell the mainstream to go whiz up a rope, they’re doing things their way.

    That’s what Cain is doing. And it’s worked out pretty well for him so far.

    J.

  15. mantis says:

    Cain started from zero and is now is consistently in the top three

    Everyone started from zero. How’s Cain doing in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina?

    In Iowa, he’s a distant 5th place with a 5.3% average.

    In New Hampshire, he’s in 7th with a 2.7% average.

    In South Carolina, he has managed to edge out Bachmann for third, with an 8.3% average.

    Since Florida is trying to leapfrog, it’s worth looking at them too. Cain’s doing pretty well there in 3rd place, picking up much of Perry’s disenchanted supporters according to a recent Survey USA poll.

    His style’s worked pretty well so far; you wanna tell him to dump it and act like John McCain or Bob Dole?

    Once again, you seem unable to understand it isn’t about Cain’s style on the stump, but the organization of his campaign. Why is that so difficult for you to comprehend?

    Oh right, you love the straw. Almost forgot.

  16. David M says:

    @mantis: It’s funny that Jay picks McCain and Dole out of all the possible choices, given they actually won the nomination. Makes sense if Cain isn’t actually a serious candidate though.

  17. mantis says:

    It’s funny that Jay picks McCain and Dole out of all the possible choices, given they actually won the nomination. Makes sense if Cain isn’t actually a serious candidate though.

    Apparently he thinks one can win the presidency as a Republican without actually being the Republican candidate. “See, these guys got nominated and lost, whereas Cain will not get nominated, but might still win! Because he’s unconventional!”

  18. Jay Tea says:

    @mantis: Sigh… the point was, I chose the last two Republican candidates who won the nomination and ran a “serious” campaign, and failed. Bush’s 2000 election was so damned close you can’t draw any lessons from it (apart from “Florida screws things up”), and 2004 was a re-election.

    J.

  19. samwide says:

    @Jay Tea:

    (although he is my current favorite)

    Death, meet Kiss of.

  20. Jay Tea says:

    @samwide: It pains me to say that there’s a bit of truth there. Fred Thompson, Thaddeus McCotter, Bill Bradley, Jack Kemp…

    As a New Hampshirite, I have a better chance than most to actually express my favoritism, but that still doesn’t make it any easier.

    J.

  21. anjin-san says:

    but because he has valuable things to say

    And what would those be – that bigotry and hatred are swell?

  22. mantis says:

    Sigh… the point was, I chose the last two Republican candidates who won the nomination and ran a “serious” campaign, and failed. Bush’s 2000 election was so damned close you can’t draw any lessons from it (apart from “Florida screws things up”), and 2004 was a re-election.

    Those guys all won primaries and caucuses. They did it with organized campaigns. Cain’s is a mess.

  23. Jay Tea says:

    @mantis: OK, now you’re just being obstinately stupid.

    How many primaries and caucuses has Cain lost so far?

    J.

  24. samwide says:

    @Jay Tea:

    @samwide: It pains me to say that there’s a bit of truth there. Fred Thompson, Thaddeus McCotter, Bill Bradley, Jack Kemp

    I’m inclined to cut you a lot of slack for those two (that and the fact that you live at the northern nether end of the icebox, which elicits my natural sympathy).

  25. WR says:

    @JoeSixPack: “A book tour at the same moment that Christie and Palin were set to announce (or not) and suck all the oxygen out of the campaign? Perfect timing!”

    Even if we accept the idea that doing a book tour would have sucked the oxygen away from Christie’s and Palin’s announcements — and I’ve got to say, there sure was a lot of oxygen flowing around Christie — doesn’t the fact that neither is running suggest that this strategy didn’t really work?

    Or will you next claim that both were scared out of the race by Cainmentum?

  26. Jay Tea says:

    @samwide: Context, Sam. Look at who was running in 1996 and 2000. They were, in my estimation of the time, the least worst.

    J.

  27. mantis says:

    How many primaries and caucuses has Cain lost so far?

    None. But the point of the discussion, which you might grasp if it didn’t constantly glance off the point on the top of your head, is that if he keeps going like this, he won’t win any. You need solid ground organizations to win primaries and caucuses, not a national campaign built around a book tour and with inept managers.