Herman Cain paces himself

posted at 3:25 pm on October 28, 2011 by Tina Korbe

A couple of gaffes on the campaign trail have led Herman Cain’s campaign managers to one conclusion: He needs more sleep. Cain’s confusing comments to Piers Morgan about his stance on abortion and his quickly-retracted remark to Wolf Blitzer in support of a hypothetical exchange of Gitmo prisoners for a single American would never have happened, they say, if the candidate were better rested.

Up to this point, voters seem to have cut Cain some slack. His all-over-the-place interviews, puzzling campaign ads and so-so performance at the Las Vegas debate haven’t cost him his newfound popularity — a popularity driven by his consistent geniality, refreshing political outsider status and bold ideas. But as the GOP nomination seems increasingly within reach for the one-time long-shot candidate, his campaign seeks to minimize mistakes on the trail. Political Ticker reports:

J.D. Gordon, the campaign’s vice president for communications, said Cain will try to avoid future gaffes by achieving a “more deliberative pace” on the trail.

“We’re trying to slow down a little bit, make sure he’s rested, make sure he’s focused,” J.D. Gordon told The Daily Beast and CNN’s Howard Kurtz.

Gordon, who only recently joined the campaign, added that mistakes happen when a candidate is conducting seven or eight events a day and does not use a teleprompter, as is the case with Cain. …

“People understand he’s not a career politician; he’s very spontaneous, they know how fast he’s going,” Gordon said. “People give him more leeway than they would someone who’s in Congress or a governor.”

Meanwhile, speculation about Herman Cain’s longterm chances remains rampant. Slate’s John Dickerson explains why the Cain boomlet could last:

His “outsider” status—unharmed by stints as a chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve or as head of the national restaurant lobby—is also shielding him from criticism. Anyone who attacks his 9-9-9 plan is part of the permanent political class—the people who got us into this mess—trying to protect their advantage. Not being a politician also gives Cain a big gaffe cushion. His “joke” about an electrified border fence, his flirtation with trading hostages for Guantanamo Bay detainees, and his momentary moderation over whether abortion is a choice do not seem to have hurt him yet. Instead, they’re seen as proof that he’s not a polished pro like Romney. When Romney and Perry go after each other, Cain benefits by not being a bickering politician. …

Perhaps the thickest part of the cushion for Cain is that his conservative voters don’t have anywhere else to go. Michele Bachmann was eclipsed by Perry. That isn’t going to happen to Cain. There aren’t any eclipsing figures left. Gingrich is having a slight burble of resurgence but he’s unlikely to become the new flavor; one of the qualities of being a flavor of the month is that people don’t know much about you. Gingrich, for better or worse, is the best known of the bunch. Perry has a long uphill slog to regain what Cain took from him, which will be hard to do in part because Cain is more appealing to voters.

Yet, at a recent focus group in Ohio, not a single participant raised a hand in answer to the question, “Do you think this person [Cain] could be president of the United States? Is anybody willing to raise your hand and say, ‘I would be comfortable if he became the next president of the United States?’”

It seems that, for all that potential voters like Cain and are intrigued by him, they’re still not quite sold on him as presidential material. But, from start to finish, Cain has taken his own campaign seriously — and this latest effort to adopt a more deliberate pace is yet another indication of that. Perhaps that will eventually translate into voter confidence in him as not merely an interesting, rather unprecedented frontrunner — but also as a potential president.

P.S. One thing Cain might not have to pace so conscientiously now as in the past is money. The campaign reported a respectable haul of $3 million in the month of October.


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