See also: Top Ten Reasons to Support Herman Cain for President
In the shadow of the CNN complex and totally ignored by much of Atlanta's local drive- by media, Herman Cain officially divulged a very poorly kept secret Saturday: that he is running for the Republican nomination for President. And in case anyone is not sure exactly what Mr. Cain's intentions are, he clearly said that he is running with only one thing in mind -- which is to finish number one.
So while that idea may seem fanciful to the pundits and the mainstream media (and of course beltway bubbled conservatives like Charles Krauthammer), the impressive size and staggering energy of the 15 thousand folks at Olympic Centennial Park gave the rally the feel of a winning movement. Sure, I am hardly objective. However, as a veteran of political rallies and campaigns off and on since 1980 -- and a sometimes operative since 1992 -- I do not reach that conclusion lightly. Frankly, I've never been to a political event that had this energy. The closest thing I can think of to describe it was the televised introduction of Sarah Palin in September of 2008 and a Reagan rally I attended in 1980 in Columbia, S.C.
It is no coincidence that the feel of Cain events has been compared to Palin events and Reagan events. They have that same unmistakable energy and Cain has an "it" factor that is simply undeniable. He is a happy but intense warrior like Reagan, and can even pull off the cowboy hat look. (Memo to Mitch Daniels, don't try this at home).
Moreover, I cannot separate what I experienced Saturday from the knowledge that Cain has routed the current and expected GOP fields in several Iowa Caucus polls and has been second and first in respective Zogby Polls. Gallup, in a poll that managed to find Republican voters who had not heard of either Palin or Mitt Romney, showed Cain with a low name recognition but higher favorables than any other announced or expected candidate.
Knowing this, the atmosphere was super charged with the passion and newness of an insurgent campaign, plus the confidence gained by a remarkable few weeks that started with the South Carolina debate "win" and ended with Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee declining to run, and Newt Gingrich imploding about four times in 72 hours. The Cain campaign advanced six months in those 22 days.
In addition, in a more intimate setting I was able to find out how Cain has meticulously picked a team and implemented a plan that is extraordinarily well conceived. With the same focus and planning that one would expect from a CEO with business turnaround experience, he has launched a campaign from nothing that has now some 200 thousand internet based volunteers and a donor base growing by leaps and bounds.
Cain handpicked his internet guru for the campaign that put this plan in place, but also sports a computer science degree himself. Cain was a techie before techie was cool, one of the many impressive things about his resume lost in the "pizza man" jazz. At 65, he has a very modern campaign structure around the internet and social networking.
Working the tea party grass roots game plan, Cain hired Mark Jon Block as his chief of staff. Block, along with Reince Preibus, masterminded the tea party take over of Wisconsin, which not only turned out of office liberal Senator Russ Feingold and put Scott Walker into the governor's mansion, but also turned over both houses in the Wisconsin legislature. When you couple this with the fact that Cain became a tea party favorite with his many speeches over the last two years, there are the makings of a brush fire ground up campaign.
(That Preibus, a tea party type guy, is now in charge of the RNC is also encouraging).
Thus, when announcement day in Atlanta drew larger crowds than anyone expected and the atmosphere was electric, I was not that surprised. There is more to the Cain Train than most know. And there was not just a festive atmosphere and a lot of cheering, those cheers came from many cheeks moist with tears that a Cain candidacy is actually what real hope and change should feel like for America.
I am confident that were there operatives involved with the Romney or Gingrich or Pawlenty campaigns in attendance, it is very likely that they were busy tapping out frantic emails or texts to their headquarters. In spite of the heat, the combination of white country music performers and black clergy juxtaposed with a super charged audience that was quintessential "tea party plus" was a scene unfamiliar to most of American politics. Any political veteran would instantly recognize the "scent of a winner." It's hard to describe, but if you're around this game for any length of time, you know it when you are around it. And you also know it's contagious.
Certainly, anything can happen in politics and with a fledgling campaign, the next 22 days might be as bad for Cain as the last 22 have been good. But I don't think that will happen. In 2012, there is not the need for a massive TV advertising budget and certainly the elections of 2006, 08 and 10 have shown us that highly paid "Republican strategists" are not only not needed, but usually a detriment and a waste of money.
But the main reason I think Cain's candidacy will continue to develop is Cain himself, combined with the times we are in. Herman Cain is a meticulous CEO whose life story is the essence of the American dream. His campaign, like his life, will be the sum of his focused planning plus his irrepressible personality and persona. He has a connection with people that is amazing, and for some reason, he just looks and sounds exactly as a man with his experiences should. And having stared stage 4 cancer in the eye and beaten it, he is fearless -- and his "give a damn" is broke.
All of which makes him refreshingly bold and honest. You get the idea that a Cain-Obama debate would be the wise grandfather taking the arrogant silly whippersnapper to the wood shed. That thought alone will likely bring supporters Cain's way and keep his campaign relevant for a long time to come.
(The author is currently writing a book with Herman Cain about his plans for America)