ORLANDO, Fla. -- Herman Cain's Secret Service security detail made its public debut in Florida on Friday, where Cain stopped in West Palm Beach, Orlando and Jacksonville on his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.
But we still don't know what his code name is.
Cain, who requested and was granted the detail on Thursday after reports of a series of skirmishes and crowd-control issues at recent campaign events, was escorted in and out of the Holy Land Experience theme park in suburban Orlando by what looked to be a half-dozen agents and two silver Chevy Suburbans.
The effect of the escort was plain:Cain, who was thronged by supporters and video journalists at events earlier this week, was quietly brought in and out the back entrance of the park's auditorium, where he gave a 30-minute, largely spiritual talk. Cain shook only a few hands at the rope line that separated the auditorium stage from the seating area, and agents wearing suits and earpieces then guided him to a back parking lot visible only through a gap in a fence.
The campaign had requested the detail the day after announcing that it would review security issues stemming from two skirmishes on Wednesday. Videographers were either jostled by the crowds or blocked from videotaping the candidate by eager local security officials.
Campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon said Thursday that the campaign requested the security because Cain “draws anywhere from a dozen to 50 media at his events.”
“When he gets out to a rally or a campaign stop,” Gordon said, “it has been increasingly common for media to be physically putting themselves and others in danger by trying to follow him with a lot of heavy equipment and cameras in close quarters, like we saw yesterday."
At the Holy Land Experience, where employees dress to match the park's ancient Jerusalem setting, Cain spoke at length of his battle with colon cancer in 2006, crediting his Christian faith with helping him beat steep odds for survival, which his doctor had put at 30 percent. Cain said that having a "doctor named Lord, a nurse named Grace and a J-shaped cut" (an incision shaped like a "J," for Jesus, he said) gave him the strength to recover.
Cain said he was initially uncertain when he learned that his surgeon was from Lebanon but was relieved to be told that the doctor was Christian. “Hallelujah," Cain recalled saying. "Thank the Lord."
"This feels like a pulpit, and I am a preacher," Cain said from his spot on the auditorium stage. "It's just a natural thing when I get in this setting."
Major party presidential candidates are given Secret Service protection, but federal law permits other candidates to seek protection if they meet a series of polling and fundraising thresholds. The law requires the homeland security secretary to consult with congressional leadership before approving a request.
The earliest that a candidate has ever been assigned protection in an election season was then-Sen. Barack Obama in May 2007, when Secret Service agents began tailing him on the campaign trail. Then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton also received protection that year.
Campaign security is a costly mission for the Secret Service. The agency has requested $113.4 million to provide security for the eventual Republican presidential nominee -- $4 million more than for the 2008 campaign and about two-thirds more than was spent for security during the 2004 election.