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Blowing Smoke
With a politically incorrect puff, Mark Block lights up the presidential race.


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Robert Costa

A presidential run — it was something Block had thought about for years, but he had never gotten close to one, at least on a national level. After his legal troubles, he was stuck in the minor leagues. But with Cain and Hansen, he felt as if he was back.

“On Day One, that night in Vegas, we told him there are a lot of suspects out there, but we are not going to run against them. We are going to run as ourselves,” Block says. “With little infrastructure and, at the beginning, little money, that was our option. And he agreed.”

In every sense, what Block planned was a guerilla campaign: no D.C. consultants, just ordinary Americans who were interested in something fresh. He tapped a few Wisconsin folks, people he and Hansen trusted and admired. But beyond that the team was tiny.

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Since then, Block says as he finishes his coffee, things have fallen into place. Not perfectly, or entirely as planned, but he remains optimistic. “Nobody thought we could do it,” he says.

Yet here he is — all eyes on him in the heart of Capitol Hill. His campaign video is the talk of a town that barely knows him; his candidate is leading in the latest New York Times/CBS national poll, as well as in many primary states. He’s a star; Cain’s a star.

And he’s still smoking. Halfway through lunch, Block gets up for another cigarette.

Linda Hansen playfully shakes her head. “When we were debating whether to leave the cigarette in the video, I just looked at him and said, ‘That’s you.’ The only thing missing in the video is an iPhone in your hand, a coffee in the other, and a cigarette dangling out of your mouth.”

That is Mark Block,” she says as he rolls his eyes.

“Just Block being Block,” he says. “Block being Block. That’s all right; that’s me.”

He pauses and raises an eyebrow. “Can you imagine Karl Rove or Dave Carney [Rick Perry’s strategist] doing the same?”

At that, he and Hansen share a chuckle. One of many they’ve had this week.

Robert Costa is a political reporter for National Review.



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