On the heels of his first-place showing in Rasmussen’s latest poll of Iowa Republicans, Herman Cain announced a new hire: Steve Grubbs, a top Hawkeye State consultant.
Grubbs, a former state GOP chairman, will direct Cain’s Iowa effort. He tells National Review Online that Cain will make a strong play for the upcoming caucuses.
“It sounds strange coming from a former party chair, but I like the way the campaign has created a national strategy,” Grubbs says. “Cain has become one of the frontrunners. But between now and caucus night, we are going to help him continue to rise.”
“I’ve recommended that we hire more staff and use the existing staff to leverage volunteers,” he adds. “By doing that, I know we can create a wildfire that will spread across the state.”
For months, Cain’s small Iowa team — four staffers in a Des Moines suburb — has been operating on a limited budget, stoking interest on Facebook and Twitter. Grubbs says work will continue, but expect more than social-networking outreach.
“It will not be different than how we did it for Bob Dole and Steve Forbes,” he says. “We’ll have lots of volunteers on the phone, find supporters, and keep them excited.”
Grubbs, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 caucus victory and was a key staffer in Dole’s 1988 caucus win, says Cain’s campaign will “do the old-fashioned blocking and tackling.” His immediate goal is to “find our 1,000 or 1,500 precinct captains, the people who will put their names on paper to work on a cold night in January.”
That may take some time. Grubbs acknowledges that, so far, Cain hasn’t done much on the ground. But at this point in the contest, he says, most campaigns would rather have the enthusiasm of Cain’s thousands of supporters, not a couple well-staffed offices.
“It’s not enough to have a good organization,” Grubbs says. “You also have to have enthusiasm. George Bush in 1988, for example, had a great organization, but not enough enthusiasm and was surpassed by Dole and Pat Robertson.”
“That’s why I feel good about Herman Cain,” he says. “He has the enthusiasm in place, and we can generate the organization. The former, if it’s not there, is hard to create. But we are already catching up on the latter. We have both elements.”
Still, Grubbs knows the road ahead will be tough, even though Cain currently leads in the polls. He notes that Mitt Romney, who places second in most polls, is stronger in the state than most believe. “It’s not true that Romney hasn’t been competing,” he says. “In Dave Kochel and Brian Kennedy, he has two of the best political strategists in Iowa, by any measure, working for him.”
Beyond well-financed competitors, other challenges loom. Part of Cain’s appeal in the state, alongside his business experience and outsider status, is his social conservatism. Cain’s recent comments on abortion, however, have confused some voters about his position on the issue. Grubbs says Cain can overcome the slew of news stories.
“It’s definitely something that has to be clarified,” he says. “To Iowa voters and Republican voters, this is an important issue. The statement he put out today is very clear.”
And on Saturday, when Cain speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s fall banquet, Grubbs predicts, Cain will “clarify” any doubts about his position.