When Cain came out, he wove through the crowd and then made a makeshift stage of a low concrete wall, standing on it to deliver impromptu remarks.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he told the crowd gathered. “We wouldn’t be here at this point today if it hadn’t been for you. The mainstream media: They still don’t get it.”
But his supporters do. “Thanks to you, I think we’re going to do all right,” Cain added.
“This is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. We don’t get discouraged,” Cain continued. “Amen!” shouted one supporter. “Never give up!” called out two more supporters.
Much of the rest of his speech was interrupted by back-and-forth interactions between him and the audience.
Cain mentioned that he had seen polls showing that his support was rising. “And let me tell you what happens with a Cain presidency that doesn’t happen with some of the others. Our supporters — you, you all don’t defect,” he told the crowd. (“We multiply!” one man shouted in response.) “You don’t get excited for the flavor of the week.”
“I can’t tell you how much not only I appreciate that, but also how encouraging it is,” he said of the sustained support. “Am I going to suddenly drop out?” (“Noooo!” chorused the crowd. “You’re going to pop up to the top!” a supporter bellowed. ) “The last time someone asked me that,” Cain continued, “my response was, ‘how do you spell quit?’ That’s not in my vocabulary.”
“You spell it ‘W-I-N,’” one person called out.
Cain chuckled. “I like that answer.”
After talking for a few minutes, Cain announced he would take photos with people and sign his autograph. But he was pressed for time, and he told people that it wouldn’t work if they came up to him in a “random fashion.” Instead, he instructed people to line up on his right if they wanted a signature and on his left if they wanted to take a photo with him. He joked that he had not intended to “part the seas” as the crowd split up into the two lines.
Cain quickly worked the lines, alternating between signing items (including a Tea Party flag) and posing for photos, and occasionally pausing to mop off the sweat that had accumulated on his head.
The bus crowd was just another sign of the massive enthusiasm among Republicans for Cain. But can he overcome the doubts that he isn’t viable in a general election?
Cain thinks so, saying in an interview that those who doubt his electability are “reading the tea leaves wrong.”
“They are saying that I can’t win a general election based upon what I call the traditional political model,” he says. “You’re going to have to throw out traditional politics because the political landscape is very different than it was before. Look at it this way: Ten years ago, we didn’t have the power of a citizens’ movement. It is very powerful today, and one of the messages that came out of Florida is just how strong it is.”
Another factor that’s changed in the past decade is the impact the internet can have. “The power of the internet has been my friend,” Cain mentions. “Social media has been my friend, and continues to be.”
“To be perfectly honest with you, my toughest challenge is winning the primary, not winning the general election,” he adds.
Cain acknowledges he’d consider being vice president if asked — and if he likes the GOP nominee.
“I’m open to it, depending upon who the nominee would be,” he says. He declines to name names, but says he would not be willing to share a ticket with every prospective GOP nominee.
But his supporters aren’t ready to settle for a Vice President Cain.
“The Herman Cain train, people!” a supporter by the bus shouted. “Next stop: the White House!”
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.