The Campaign Spot

Is Cain Reaching Critical Mass? Or Critical Condition?

In the first Morning Jolt of the week, a lengthy examination of whether Herman Cain is reaching critical mass or critical condition, some of which you’ll find below:

Is the Hurri-Cain Breaking Apart? Or Just Gathering Up Steam?

I think this story is less than reassuring if you are pulling for a Herman Cain nomination in 2012:

Cain, however, said he plans to “dial back” his campaign and media appearances in order to avoid missteps. Since climbing in the polls, he has had a series of fumbles, forcing him to clarify comments on abortion, immigration and terrorism suspects.

Cain has chalked up the mistakes to a grueling campaign schedule jammed with media interviews. Such itineraries are standard fare on the presidential campaign trail and it is unclear how aggressively he will restrict his schedule.

A former pizza magnate who has never held elected office, Cain is adapting from a longshot candidate hustling for any media attention to a front-runner who must be more selective with his time and disciplined in his message.

“When you’re too tired you’re not on your ‘A game,’” the 65-year-old Georgia businessman told a throng of reporters who greeted the arrival of his bus on the Samford campus.

He said it was a mistake to schedule interviews immediately following debates. Cain maintained he did not flip-flop on issues, but simply did not hear questions properly.

Er . . . suppose Cain wins the GOP nomination. Just how much easier does he think a general election schedule is?

The current primary process is maddening because candidates give such extraordinary attention to early primary states, and those states expect and demand to be given extraordinary attention from candidates. A candidate can devote enormous amounts of time and money to a key primary state and hope that a win or strong showing there will somehow “catapult” them to more success in subsequent primaries. But it’s completely unrepresentative of the general election process. The 2012 Republican nominee is going to have to fight on an extraordinarily broad battlefield. The nominee might be able to maximize a bus tour by going through Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin — and maybe Michigan or Iowa. But you can’t ignore the western swing states, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado. The Obama camp is certain that they still have a shot in Virginia and North Carolina. Then there’s the two geographic outliers, New Hampshire and Florida. You can’t work every room in every swing state (bad news for Rick Perry) and you can’t take a “dialed back” approach, as Cain appears to be embracing here.

Of course, perhaps it is easier successfully pull off the “dialed back” approach when you’re the frontrunner.

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