Herman Cain is running a pretty strong presidential campaign, depending on whom you ask. The press covers him intensely: In early November, Cain was the “dominant” newsmaker in a whopping 72 percent of all campaign news stories, (according to a Pew report). Cain’s rivals now see him as a threat, attacking him regularly. And Republican voters are following these cues, at least in theory, telling pollsters that they support him. But what about Herman Cain?
A review of his recent activities, commonly referred to as a presidential campaign, suggest four big reasons why he is not really running for president at all.
The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus is crucial for every presidential campaign. Since 1980, the Republican who won the caucus usually went on to win the nomination. Iowa is especially critical for underdog and cash-strapped campaigns, because the caucus system relies on grassroots organizing, enabling candidates with time for retail politicking to beat better-funded rivals. So underdogs usually seize on the state. That’s why Rick Santorum has held 198 events in Iowa this year, leading the current field. It’s why during this time in 2007, long-shot candidates like Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama were camped out in the state. (They both went on to win Iowa.)
Herman Cain, however, can be found just about anywhere but Iowa.
During the current homestretch, he is on a twenty-eight-day break from the state. His campaign says he will return on November 19—but not to meet with precinct captains or do voter turnout. Cain was lured by the prospect of yet another debate, a “Thanksgiving Family Forum” moderated by celebrity pollster Frank Luntz. All told, Cain has spent only thirty-four days in Iowa, which trails Bachmann, Gingrich and Santorum.
2. Everywhere else
Is it possible that Cain is neglecting Iowa, yet building a firewall in other key states?
Not really. Time magazine recently surveyed Republican officials in key primary states and found that Cain’s actual campaign presence, compared to his rivals, was “infinitesimal.” “There is almost no organization to speak of,” said former New Hampshire GOP chair Fergus Cullen, adding that local Republicans would not know “whom to call” to schedule Cain in the Granite State.
Beyond the missing field program, which every campaign needs to morph theoretical public support into actual voter turnout, another operative told Time that Cain’s South Carolina operation doesn’t even have a political staff to return calls from US senators: