CONCORD, N.H. – If there’s one thing Georgia businessman and presidential contender Herman Cain knows how to do on the campaign trail, it’s broadcast loudly and often that he’s having a really good time.
His staff? Not so much.
The morning after a candidates debate at Dartmouth College that Cain dominated with talk of his “9-9-9” plan to overhaul the federal tax code, the former Godfather’s Pizza executive brought New Hampshire lawmakers to their feet with a rousing speech in the state Capitol’s august House chamber.
Cain strolled across the Capitol grounds surrounded by reporters and camera crews, stopping to explain the details of that plan, what he thinks of the alleged Iranian assassination plot and even whether he thinks he could lure black voters away from President Obama (he does).
Cain crowed about the attention he attracted during the debate, which was sponsored by The Washington Post and Bloomberg News.
And he ate lunch at a diner on the outskirts of town, where the daily special was priced at, you guessed it, $9.99.
“You know you must be doing something right when you get a lot of arrows in your back,” Cain said of the scrutiny and attention his debate performance is attracting.
“Many American people are saying, ‘You know what? This longshot may not be such a long shot.’”
Cain’s harried and shoe-string staff was not quite so jubilant about the onslaught that their candidate’s rise has brought down on their heads.
“Where are you going next?” reporters asked a patient but beleaguered J.D. Gordon, Cain’s spokesman, who, in keeping with the “corporate” structure that Cain has imposed on his campaign, is called a “vice president for communications.” “Is there a public event?” “What’s the address?”
Gordon might have been titled more accurately the vice president for “I don’t know,” because that was his constant, if apologetic, reply to the media barrage.
The communications veep didn’t know the name of the restaurant where Cain was headed for the $9.99 photo op. He didn’t know, though several reporters did, that there was a public event scheduled for Thursday in Ohio.
He didn’t know where, exactly, Cain’s bus tour would start in Memphis. Reached by telephone moments before the Concord press conference was supposed to begin, Gordon didn’t even know where that was supposed to be, and several reporters (including this one) found it by sheer luck.
Still, there were signs that Cain’s operation is gearing up to handle his new status – and maintain it all the way to 2012, when voting begins in early nominating states, including New Hampshire.
Gordon explained that the campaign now employs 30 people, with field staff on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Maryland and Virginia.
He laid out a jampacked travel schedule for the remainder of the week, with fundraising stops in New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Nevada in advance of next week’s Republican debate in Las Vegas. He detailed a two-day bus tour commencing Thursday that will take the candidate from Memphis to Nashville. Is Tennessee an early state? No – but Cain has a lot of support in the country-music community, Gordon said.
Let’s hope it’s more support than he has so far in the New Hampshire legislature. Just five members of the House of Representatives – a 400-member body – endorsed Cain on Wednesday, a number dwarfed by the dozens of lawmakers who have lined up behind former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.