Herman Cain is entrusting a lean campaign staff with minimal presidential experience to translate his rising support in the GOP primary into victory at the polls.
That staff is led by Mark Block, 57, the chief political strategist and campaign manager all rolled into one whose expertise is in grass-roots organizing. His last significant role on a presidential campaign was in 1988, when he served as the Wisconsin executive director of George H.W. Bush’s campaign. The campaign doesn’t work with a pollster and has no plans to hire one, still lacks a dedicated fundraiser and recently hired a communications director with zero campaign experience.
During a 45-minute interview with Roll Call on Sunday, Block discussed his relationship with Cain, the Georgia businessman’s unconventional approach to running for president and an admittedly untested, nontraditional campaign strategy that puts less influence on the early primary and caucus states. With less than three months before the first votes are cast, Block is confident, saying his strategy is designed to tap into tea party energy that he said has been underestimated by the competition.
“Obviously Iowa and New Hampshire are important states. But we’re not running a two-state strategy,” Block said over coffee at Union Station, after shepherding Cain from CNN to CBS to appear on the morning talk shows. “History will tell whether Karl Rove is right or Mark Block is right. Unlike all of the other presidential cycles ... this is not my father’s campaign. You have this whole new paradigm out there of this grass-roots movement.”
Cain isn’t big on bringing in “high-priced consultants,” Block continued. “Cain’s brilliant, not just in marketing, in understanding what the American people are looking for in leadership and how to message it. He probably saves us millions of dollars that the other candidates have to spend on outside consultants.”
Cain rocketed to the top tier of candidates in national public opinion polls in September and early October after several months in the low single digits. As of Tuesday afternoon’s Real Clear Politics average gauging the preference of primary voters in the race for the GOP nomination, Cain was in second place with
16.4 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was in first with 21.9 percent and Texas Gov. Rick Perry was in third with 15.3 percent.
Block conceded that Cain needs to be competitive in the traditional early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as Nevada and Florida — and that he has to win at least one to be viable in the states that follow. That could pose a challenge, although Cain’s polling in the early states has begun to catch up to his national numbers.