The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘A Million Miles an Hour’: Interview With Herman Cain Campaign Chief of Staff

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?

RSM: 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.’

RSM: Yep.
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].
BLOCK: Yeah.

RSM: Which was my big beef.
BLOCK: Yeah.

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?’

RSM: Yeah.
BLOCK: And I’ll try to do that tonight and send you a text message.

* * * * * *

UPDATE: Linked by Rio Norte Line, Matt Lewis, Hot Air Headlines, and by Bryan Preston at PJ Tatler. Now a Memeorandum thread.

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.”


74 Responses to “‘A Million Miles an Hour’: Interview With Herman Cain Campaign Chief of Staff”

  1. richard mcenroe
    November 11th, 2011 @ 11:58 am

    How do we know the severances were larger than a “usual” severance package?  What’s “usual”?  What’s the standard?

    Motives:  Perry, crashing and burning at the time.  Remove Cain and look to pick up at least some of the Cain base on an anyone but Romney basis.  Hail Mary pass, but noise in his base reinforces the odds.

    Romney:  Four early primaries.  Designated nominee of the RNC mafia.  If he loses or even squeaks out nailbiters, his coronation parade is delayed, maybe roadblocked.  

    Democrats?  Obviously they want to damage a charismatic, popular opponent.  But why now, so early.  If Romney, Perry, whoever can knock Cain out they don’t NEED to.  If Cain gets the nomination they have more their October surprise and more time to firm up their story.  You don’t fire your 2012 October Surprise in 2011…

  2. richard mcenroe
    November 11th, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    Yeah, but Allred is also a serious Dem operative.  Hard to see her stampeding off the rez like that…

  3. Anonymous
    November 11th, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

    Perhaps the SDs want to use what they have against Cain before he gets knocked out of the race. Using smears like this don’t just hurt the targeted candidate the splatter effect gets a little on the others and the Republican brand. That Cain accused other Republicans is a side benefit to the SDs also. And then there is poor impulse control characteristic of Progressives.

  4. Anonymous
    November 11th, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

    The Left could just be opportunistically piling on, regardless of how it started.

  5. Anonymous
    November 11th, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    The new web site seems to have more stuff on it.  I see stuff about how old links (like to the 9-9-9 scoring) are now broken.  I’m not sure if that’s simply a reoganization or an oversight or a deliberate move.  I clicked on the 9-9-9 link, and I couldn’t find the document with the analysis from the outside group.

    I think the 9-9-9 page itself has the same URL as before:

  6. ‘Just Win, Baby’ : The Other McCain
    November 11th, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

    […] allegations against Cain – was “pure genius” as strategy. Mark Block told me that he still sincerely believes that the Perry campaign was responsible for pushing that story. And I’ve said all along that my gut-hunch suspicion was […]

  7. Troy Riser
    November 11th, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    Bob Belvedere wrote, “I feel better hearing him [Block] being interviewed by someone who is not playing ‘gotcha’.”

    That’s just it: Block shouldn’t be giving interviews, putting his name out there, his face out there. It’s a foolish, amateurish mistake for a campaign manager to make, one Karl Rove learned from in W’s first gubanatorial race and Ed Rollins never did anywhere. Voters shouldn’t even be aware of Block’s name because it takes voter attention away from his candidate. That Block refers to himself in the third person– ‘Does Block make mistakes? Of course!’–is never a good sign. It speaks to overweening ego and grandiosity, a guy who likes the limelight. 

    And this continual finger-pointing at the Perry campaign for dropping the dime on Cain? Please. Those sexual harassment allegations against Cain were out there, waiting for any staffer doing basic opposition research. For someone with Mark Block’s dirty tricks reputation to condemn another campaign for doing its job is ridiculous–even if it was proven Perry’s people were responsible, which it hasn’t been. So far, Block’s made two confirmed false accusations: ‘that kid at Politico’ and Kurt Anderson. Candidate Cain, for his part, has also accused the ‘Democratic machine’ and liberal media. Personally, I think the Democrats and their media allies stay up late at night praying for a Cain GOP nomination. All Obama needs to do to beat Cain in a live, televised debate is steer the discussion to those areas in which Cain is woefully uninformed: foreign and domestic policy,  the legislative process, current affairs, history, basic civics…have I left anything out? In a debate forum, Obama would skin Cain alive and use him to cover the drums at Zucotti Park.

    Mark Block’s performance is a reflection of Cain’s judgment, so imagine Mark Block as a prototypical example of the type and kind of staff or cabinet member President Cain would select and rely upon for expertise in foreign policy, economic planning, and legislative strategies, and vote accordingly. 

  8. K Brolin
    November 11th, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

    You are right, politics  is exactly like war, and so is a business about to go bankrupt…because it’s about survival.  When Mr. Cain went to GodFathers he received NO support and NO money from the Parent Company (kind of like the GOP until AFTER the FL Straw).  He had to completely rebuild the organization with talented dedicated inspired staff that had NEVER operated before on the national business stage. They made mistakes and grew quickly. That has always been the key for Herman Cain to produce results SO fast.

  9. K Brolin
    November 11th, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

    OK, you just set the bar, when Herman Cain does well and the T(eleprompter)OTUS does not skin Mr. Cain alive, let’s promise to meet back here and discuss

  10. Troy Riser
    November 11th, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

    President Obama may be the worst president since James Buchanan, but he’s a superlative campaigner and a skillful debater. I saw Obama dismantle Alan Keyes during the Illinois senatorial debate, after Jack Ryan dropped out of the race following the mysterious release of heand his wife Jeri’s sealed divorce records. I then watched as Obama trounced Senator McCain during the presidential debates. Say what you want about McCain, but he’s no lightweight. He knows policy problems and how to articulate them. He lost badly to Obama in those debates, there’s no getting around it.

    Now compare and contrast Obama to Herman Cain. Cain is likeable, yes, but national foreign and domestic policy issues are by and large out of his ken.  Cain didn’t know what a ‘neo-conservative’ was, or what ‘Right of Return’ meant. ‘Let me get back to you on that’ is not an acceptable response in a presidential debate. Further, during the last debate, when Cain said, referring to his 9-9-9 plan, ‘When voters understand it, they’ll demand it,’ I got the strong impression he didn’t understand it, himself. In the debate prior to that, when Cain’s primary opponents, Bachmann and Romney in particular, starting pressing him on the particulars, he responded by saying, ‘Apples and oranges! Apples and oranges!’ like a litany.  Not exactly a substantive or persuasive response.

    Besides, 9-9-9 is a value-added tax (VAT). Nancy Pelosi, among others on the Left, love VATs. So will every Democratic administration after Cain, if he happened to win.

    Bottom line: if Cain wins the GOP nomination, he will lose to President Obama, and we will lose our last chance to stop or even roll back the transformation of our country into another failed socialist superstate.

  11. Cain Has a Chief of Staff Problem « Commentary Magazine
    November 11th, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    […] is the chief of staff of the Cain campaign. And in a recent interview, Block insisted that he wasn’t backing off the accusation the Rick Perry campaign was responsible […]

  12. Bob Belvedere
    November 11th, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

    You would think that, but I’ve seen it happen in a campaign for Governor I was involved in.  An operative for the GOP candidate passed on info to a reporter for the local Bolshe paper.

  13. Bob Belvedere
    November 11th, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

    [Shamless Blogwhoring Alert!] Are you saying they have a Hive Mind???

  14. Anonymous
    November 11th, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    The danger of doing that however is that whether the leaked info succeeded or failed there is a high risk of who planted the story being leaked the higher the stakes the more likely that outcome. The only sure way to avoid that is to plant the story anonymously and successfully cover ones tracks.

  15. Anonymous
    November 11th, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    And cheap Bic pens.

  16. Anonymous
    November 11th, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

    Doesn’t having an interviewee using the third person make typing up the transcript easier?

  17. richard mcenroe
    November 11th, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

    If Cain is capitalizing on the Tea Party organizing, it could just be freaking brilliant.  Most states have TP orgs that have been seriously organizing for down-ticket operations for months now, even California.  In business terms, Cain could be positioning himself to pick up a whole load of ‘turnkey’ franchise startups…

  18. Anonymous
    November 11th, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    I am shocked, SHOCKED to discover that there are egotists involed in political campaigning. Or blogging for that matter.

  19. Hugh Vaughan-Williams
    November 11th, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

    There’s con-trail high in the  clear skies  over my house. I bet it’s  Stacy  on his way to check out Vanuatu  over the weekend. 

  20. Ladd Ehlinger Jr.
    November 11th, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

    Sorry, that’s not how campaigns should work. You do “red team” opposition research on your own candidate. You write down in a list everything bad, or potentially bad, about your candidate. Your candidate tells you everything that could be used against him, in excruciating detail. 

    You work out at the beginning of the campaign on how to respond to any of those items, and you put those responses in action when the ball drops.Or at least, that’s how you’re *supposed* to do it.

  21. Ladd Ehlinger Jr.
    November 11th, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

    Cain also endorsed Romney last election, and has said in this election, if not me, then Romney. So Romney dishing it out would be enormously stupid of him, wouldn’t you say? Especially if Romney wants Cain as his veep choice.

  22. Paula
    November 11th, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

    Wow.  This is weird.  Block is doing to Perry what they complained the MSM was doing to Cain.   And Stacy is endorsing this sentiment?  Do you have the evidence for this accusation against Governor Perry or are you going to just use it as a Campaign strategy?   I think everyone needs to back up and look at the big picture here.   Time for the GOP to quit eating their own.

     I losing a whole lot of respect right now.

  23. Dave
    November 11th, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

    That may be how you do it if you’re a professional politician and you lie for a living, so you know you’re going to have to make sure to keep your stories straight. That better be what the Cain team is doing right now. That doesn’t mean that they did it before, and in fact such a course of action is foreign to most of us who don’t, as I said, lie for a living. Most of us don’t overly worry about “keeping our stories straight” because we aren’t setting out to tell stories. People telling the truth about minor incidents, especially ones a decade or more ago, contradict themselves all the time. It’s the liars who never trip up because they’ve rehearsed their lies. I have some serious reservations about Cain the businessman attempting to cope with the snakepit bureaucracies that comprise the executive branch, but I really like that Cain’s instinctive reaction to things isn’t that of a politician.

  24. Bob Belvedere
    November 12th, 2011 @ 2:37 am

    Or have something on the reporter, or a member of his family.