Posted on | November 10, 2011 | 74 Comments
In a brief telephone interview Thursday night, Herman Cain presidential campaign chief of staff Mark Block discussed the campaign’s strategy, fund-raising and recent news developments. Block contacted me after I’d written a post about the many criticisms leveled at the campaign by conservatives, including bloggers who demanded that Block be fired from the campaign. My recording of the interview began after Block had told me he was taking a cigarette break. — RSM
Robert Stacy McCain: Hang on, hang on a second. I’ve got to step outside myself and have a smoke.
Mark Block: Smokers unite!
RSM: What happened was, I saw all the bloggers calling for your lynching and I said, look, you know, I can bitch about this campaign from a much more informed perspective than anybody else could ever bitch about this campaign. You know what I’m saying?
RSM: And so these amateurs jumping in on ‘Oh, what’s wrong with the Cain campaign’ kind of pissed me off. And so I said, ‘OK, I’ll uncork one and when it’s all said and done, guess what? They just raised $9 million, they’re on top of the polls, nobody ever thought they’d ever be there — you want to recalibrate your criticism?’
BLOCK: You know, Stacy, and I’m not blowing smoke up your ass –- no pun intended — but you’re one of the few that get that this is a non-traditional campaign.
Does Block make mistakes? Of course! You know, one of the reasons is we don’t have an army of researchers and analysts telling us what we can and cannot say and how to say it, OK? I don’t have a whole slew of lawyers that I go to and say, ‘You know what, because I say this thing about this kid that works for Politico and his mother, double-check the facts.’ I get handed a piece of paper and it says that he works at Politico, they broke the story, same last name of this woman, connect the dots — I was wrong! I admitted I was wrong, all right?
Now, with all of those faults, though, Stacy, we run a million miles an hour. And you know what? We make mistakes. But they can’t catch us.
RSM: Well, you know, I defended the ‘Blame Perry’ move as strategic genius. And whether or not it was intentional or not, you know, even your mistakes help you.
BLOCK: No, no — I will not back off of the Perry thing, Stacy. I will say that I was wrong on the kid that worked for Politico, because we didn’t have our facts straight. I’m not backing off on the Perry thing. I backed off on the guy [consultant Curt Anderson], because he came out and said that it wasn’t him. But I’m still not backing off that the pot wasn’t stirred by the Perry folks.
RSM: Well, between you and me and the fencepost [discussion involving confidential sources, redacted] and we’ll never know where this shit came from, except that my hunch from the get-go was Perry. But if it was the Obama people, so what? If it was Romney, so what? You know, that doesn’t matter, really.
BLOCK: Yeah, you know what? It’ll probably be like Deep Throat. We probably won’t know for 25 years where the whole Politico thing came from.
RSM: Yeah. Well, now, $9.4 million [fundraising since Oct. 1] is the number I just heard?
BLOCK: It was over $9 million.
RSM: In 40 days?
RSM: Which is $225,000 a day.
BLOCK: It doesn’t take a simple regression analysis to figure that one out, does it?
RSM: No. So, what’s your burn rate? Is it still low? I mean, are you piling this money up?
BLOCK: Yep. . . . This is something that you got, that the other ones didn’t get. We got a lot of criticism from you and others, early on — really, going into the Florida straw poll –because we didn’t have a massive staff in every state and we didn’t have a massive staff in Atlanta. And we didn’t have this and we didn’t have that and we didn’t have all this other stuff. Right?
BLOCK: Because we didn’t want to burn that cash. So we come out of the Florida straw poll with extremely low fixed costs. If I’m talking like a businessman, it’s because he runs it like a business. So our burn rate is small, compared to all of the other campaigns, because we don’t have a lot of fixed overhead. So now, as the cash comes in, right, I don’t have a lot of bills to pay, Stacy.
RSM: OK. So let me ask you something — and someone had told me about this — is that you guys sent [field director] Jamie Brazil down to Florida before that straw poll to reach out to people and, like the list of [Republican] contacts in the state would have cost $7,000, and y’all didn’t spend the $7,000, and he did it all on his own. Is that true?
BLOCK: That’s true, but you gotta remember, Stacy, how many dozens of trips that Mr. Cain made into Florida prior to the Florida straw poll and all the Tea Party groups that he spoke at their rallies, OK? We had built an infrastructure down there. When you and I were out in Maryland [in July] in the driveway of, I can’t even remember whose house it was, and I said, ‘Stacy, we built these infrastructures in these states.’
BLOCK: Through the Tea Party movement. I remember going into, for God’s sake, Fargo, North Dakota, in February or March, freezing my butt off, and the first people we met was the Tea Party groups, the 9/12-ers, the grassroots organizations. This is why I say that we’re running a million miles an hour — they can’t catch us, Stacy, ‘cause you can’t build those infrastructures overnight.
RSM: Yeah, well, speaking of building things overnight, I got a little note back from a friend who says y’all may be rolling out your new Web site [Friday].
RSM: Which was my big beef.
RSM: So, you’re re-launching the site tomorrow with a new design?
BLOCK: Yes, and you know, I have been so busy the last 10 days that I’m 99.9 percent sure that we’re rolling it out tomorrow, because we’re rolling it out on Veteran’s Day — tomorrow’s Veteran’s Day — but I haven’t had even a chance to call the developers and say, ‘What time are you flipping the switch?’
BLOCK: And I’ll try to do that tonight and send you a text message.
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Everybody seems so judgmental today, eh? People don’t pay me to teach campaign ethics. They pay me to get the story. I’m like the sportswriter in the press box. And like Al Davis said, “Just win, baby.”