Mark Block and Linda Hansen, Herman Cain’s senior advisers, tell National Review Online that Cain will soon hold a series of “major town-hall meetings” in early primary states.
They predict that packing school auditoriums and conference halls with supporters will enable Cain to leap ahead of his competitors, generating buzz and enthusing grassroots activists.
“It’s a combination of a retail strategy and a wholesale strategy,” Block says.
For months, Cain’s operation in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina has been hustling, but the number of paid staffers has been limited. Now, having raised more than $5 million since the beginning of October, the campaign is stepping up, Block says, hiring experienced strategists, opening more offices, and organizing bus tours.
And the money keeps coming. The campaign has averaged $1.2 million per week since October 1, and over 80 percent of the $5 million raised has come in the form of online donations.
Yet it’s the town halls that excite Block and Hansen the most.
Block says Cain has been a favorite of conservatives for months, but with a fledgling operation, capitalizing on his popularity has been a challenge. Now, the campaign is flush with cash, and the candidate has established a national presence.
Cain, in essence, will “go big” — and local — in the final stretch of primary season, looking to outdraw fellow contenders on the ground and highlight his strength with the GOP base.
“The bus tour has been wildly successful versus coming into a community, walking into a room, doing an event, and leaving,” he says. “The bus tour connects him with Main Street.”
The town halls, he says, will be an extension of that political road trip. It’ll hit small towns, too, not only large media markets. These events, Block says, will showcase Cain’s ability to connect with voters, especially those with few ties to the organized GOP.
Block bets that the media interest in these Cain rallies and town halls will keep the candidate on the national radar, stoking interest from on-the-fence Republicans.
Donors, he adds, will also have a chance to see “Cain being Cain,” fleshing out his positions in long exchanges, which he has not been able to do during televised debates.
The campaign is in the race for the long haul, Block insists, even though there is a long, drawn-out primary season that stretches into the spring. “We’re making a real play for everywhere,” he says. “We’re not going to concede a state.”
Hansen agrees. “It’s a 50-state strategy,” she says. “It’s also organic — he’s won straw polls in states where we haven’t been yet.”
In the latest polls, Cain has surged. Mitt Romney has begun to cut into his lead in some surveys. But Cain still has momentum: A new Fox News poll puts him ahead of Romney by about 1 percentage point; the latest CBS News/New York Times poll has him up by 4 points.
“We still have a long way to go,” Block cautions. “There’s some tough stuff coming.”
Block and Hansen, outsiders in Washington, are confident that their candidate will survive. Their national strategy will continue, but next month, watch for a new emphasis on making heads turn in Des Moines and Manchester with Cain on stage, microphone in hand.
— Robert Costa is a political reporter for National Review.