It's difficult to understand what Herman Cain's campaign is doing until you look at it as a mission to advance the personal brands of everyone involved. Cain's campaign manager, Mark Block, is pretty pleased with all the attention his weird pro-smoking pro-Cain video has gotten, telling the Associated Press' Ryan J. Foley and Shannon McCaffrey, "Can you imagine Karl Rove doing what I did with that cigarette?" He explains his days as a political renegade and his sobriety post-drunk driving arrests and how he thinks "outside the box" -- "It's a joke around here, 'Let Block be Block'" -- that's B-L-O-C-K, okay, guys? But don't worry about Cain not being served well by a self-promoter. Self-promotion is the most consistent theme of the Cain campaign.
As much as he might scoff at Rove, Block says he's running a "50-state strategy," just like David Plouffe did for Barack Obama in 2008. But that doesn't mean Cain will be shaking hands in all 50 states; it means he'll be selling books there. The day before Cain won the Florida straw poll, his campaign emailed supporters not about how to cut the budget deficit or kill Obamacare or win Afghanistan or whatever. It suggested getting a collector's edition box set of his book, National Journal reports: "Consider giving a loved one a copy of This is Herman Cain," it said. "You wouldn't be giving them just a book. You'd give them a gift to open again and again."
J.D. Gordon -- Cain's "vice president for communications" and foreign policy adviser -- told The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz that Cain's going to ease up on the pace of campaigning so he doesn't make so many gaffes. "We're trying to slow down a little bit, make sure he’s rested, make sure he’s focused," Gordon said. A "more deliberate pace" would prevent Cain from making "those kinds of mistakes," Gordon said, blaming Cain's confused comments on abortion and negotiating with terrorists on being sleepy. Earlier this week, Gordon told Foreign Policy that Cain was getting "smarter on foreign policy every day," thanks to an expanded foreign policy team made up of advisers for an un-launched think tank that Gordon seemed to be promoting.
How you slow the pace of a campaign that has put the candidate in early voting states only three times in the last month is unclear. It seems unlikely that Cain will give up on the centerpiece of his strategy -- TV interviews -- or, say, skip the Lincoln-Douglas-style debate in Texas with Newt Gingrich next month that will reach out to voters for just $200 a ticket for the cheap seats, $500 for tickets and pie, and $1,000 for tickets, a good seat, and a photo with the candidates, as NBC’s Domenico Montanaro reports. What's especially odd about Cain's media-focused campaign is that its manager has a lot of experience in the ugly on-the-ground realities of campaigning. Block paid a $15,000 fine and was banned from running political campaigns in Wisconsin for three years for breaking campaign finance rules, the Associated Press reports. He was accused of trying to suppress votes of minorities and college kids (as in, Democratic voters) and investigated for misleading robo-calls about a school referendum. His life fell apart after the ban from Wisconsin politics, and he was arrested twice for drunk driving. But he's seen the light. Block's quit drinking, he says. And clearly he's abandoned the legally tricky on-the-ground tactics of very real local politics in favor of a perfectly-legal media-focused maybe-fake presidential campaign.