Posted on | October 14, 2011 | 57 Comments
Let me be blunt in saying that I am thoroughly familiar with every argument against Herman Cain’s candidacy, and far more aware than most political journalists of the organizational challenges (to put it mildly) of the Cain campaign. Last night I was on the phone with my buddy Ali Akbar as we
bemoaned bewailed bitched about discussed the hopeless clusterfuck organizational challenges of Cain’s staff situation. While all campaigns go through their rough spots, and I’ve seen campaigns win elections despite serious errors, Herman Cain’s campaign now faces two huge problems:
- They’re less than 90 days away from the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. Even if the Nevada situation can be worked out to keep New Hampshire from jumping to December, 90 days from Iowa is still a damned short time to put together an effective ground game in all 99 counties in Iowa.
- They’re up against Team Romney. Say what you will about Mitt, his campaign staff is a ruthlessly disciplined machine, and they’ve got about a 5-to-1 fund-raising advantage over Cain.
As I explained to Ali, if the Cain campaign were to raise $100,000 every day, that would be $3 million a month or about $8 million between now and Jan. 3. The problem is that the Perry campaign’s sitting on something like $15 million and Romney raised $10 million in the last quarter. Even if the Perry campaign didn’t raise another dime, they could spend $5 million a month between now Jan. 3, and that’s a heckuva lot of TV ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. Whatever Romney’s cash-on-hand figures, he’s got the big bundlers like Georgette Mosbacher behind him, and will have no shortage of cash for TV ads.
How can the Cain campaign possibly hope to compete with that? If you just look at it as a problem of simple math, by the ordinary logic of campaign operations, Cain would be doomed beyond hope even if his staff were as efficient as Team Romney. So I cannot necessarily say that Rove’s basic calculation is wrong. Insofar as normal politics is concerned, Rove’s prediction of an unhappy ending for the Cain campaign seems smart.
But normal politics has taken a savage beating the past few years, and it’s hard to calculate the odds of success for the kind of “outside-the-box” campaign that Cain and his staff have been talking about since December. Nobody expected, 10 months ago, that Herman Cain would be where he is now, neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney at the front of the field. Hell, nobody expected this even one month ago, when Cain’s poll numbers were stuck in single digits. It’s been only 20 days since Cain shocked the world with his victory in the Sept. 24 Florida straw poll, so everybody’s still trying to get their heads wrapped around the concept of “Herman Cain, Republican contender.”
If you’ve got a Road to the White House map, we’re currently off at the edge in uncharted seas where the legend reads, “Here Be Dragons.”
And when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
It just occurred to me that today, Oct. 14, is the two-year anniversary of the day in 2009 when Lisa De Pasquale invited me to join a conference call with a guy named Doug Hoffman. Maybe you’ve heard of him.
Miracles can happen, and what happened in NY-23 two years ago was a rare kind of inspirational moment in politics. And when it was over, a new kind of campaign paradigm had been created:
Yates Walker ate breakfast in the Blue Moon Café on Main Street in Saranac Lake, New York, on the morning of November 4,  and delivered an after-action report on the battle that had just been fought in the upstate 23rd District.
“We took a CPA from 9 percent to 46 percent in two and a half weeks,” said Walker, a young veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division who had been hired 18 days earlier to work on Doug Hoffman’s congressional campaign staff. “I couldn’t be prouder.”
He fell 5,000 votes short of defeating Democrat Bill Owens, but Hoffman’s surprising surge in the closing weeks of the three-way special election in upstate New York had, in Walker’s words, turned the bespectacled accountant into “an electric symbol of conservatism.” . . .
Read the whole thing in case you’ve forgotten that magical two and a half weeks. Karl Rove never saw that coming, either, and if Herman Cain is going to beat Mitt Romney, his campaign is going to have make that kind of lightning strike twice. Such were the thoughts that came to my mind in the wee hours this morning, after I had filed my latest American Spectator column:
Hickory trees were blazing brilliant gold in the forest surrounding my home on the western slope of South Mountain as I stepped outside Thursday afternoon to take a call on my cellphone from a well-informed source. My enjoyment of the autumn scenery was diminished only slightly by the cool drizzly overcast weather, but much more by the shadows of gloom gathering over the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, which was the reason for the phone call.
After listening with great interest, I walked inside to the dining room table, picked up a pen and asked my source to repeat the information which I scrawled into a notebook: “Rubio [chief] of staff — CESAR — used to be w/ Romney’s campaign … used his contacts to push primary to 31st because they want Romney in.” A couple more phone calls to D.C. and Florida, a few minutes of online research, and I had an exclusive: “Top Rubio Staffer Reportedly Pushed for Early Florida Primary to Help Romney.” Perhaps not the kind of story Matt Drudge would consider worthy of a banner headline, but a key piece of the puzzle surrounding events that have hopelessly scrambled the 2012 schedule. . . .