Sexual harassment allegations and a weak grasp on foreign policy don’t seem to have slowed down the apparently unstoppable Herman Cain.
Despite all political logic, the former pizza titan is still hanging on, months after surging to the front of the 2012 Republican field.
Cain’s previously barebones campaign team now finally appears to be keeping pace with the candidate’s frontrunner status. Communications director JD Gordon announced today that the campaign has doubled in size over the past month, expanding to 75 staff members and “1.9 million volunteers.”
Gordon’s release also formally announced Cain’s senior campaign team, a ragtag group that includes a disgraced Wisconsin GOP operative, a close friend of the Clintons, and an Ohio wealth advisor who is now America’s hottest economic policy expert. Most members of the team have been working with Cain for months.
Anchored by veterans of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded conservative activist group with deep ties to the Tea Party, Cain’s team has little national campaign experience, but is well-versed in the grassroots organising tactics that have galvanised the GOP’s right-wing, anti-Establishment flank.
In the face of conventional logic, this team of political misfits is now rewriting the rules of campaign politics and sending the national media into a tailspin. And while Cain may not make it past Super Tuesday, his bizarre, postmodern experiment is poised to change the way we think about presidential elections long before then.
Before vaulting into campaign ad history with his absurd smoking video, Block was the largely unseen force behind Cain's upstart presidential bid -- the David Axelrod to Cain's Obama -- and is widely credited with convincing the former Godfather's Pizza CEO to run.
Block is both Cain's chief strategist and campaign manager, but like the candidate, he is an unlikely fit for a presidential bid. A Wisconsin Republican/Tea Party operative, he has virtually no political experience outside of the Badger State. Moreover, Block's career has been marked by scandal -- he was actually banned from working on Wisconsin campaigns after being accused of violating election law in 1997.
He returned 11 years later as the state director for AFP, where he linked up with Cain, who had been tapped to be the public face of AFP's 'Prosperity Expansion Project.' They have been together ever since -- Cain as the charismatic frontman and Block as the unconventional brains behind the operation.
Block and his deputy Linda Hansen are being investigated for possible campaign finance violations; the pair ran a private company that appears to have illegally lent money to the Cain campaign for iPads and travel expenses.
Brazil, a Scranton-based political consultant, is definitely one of the most surprising members of the Cain campaign. That's because he is close personal friends with -- wait for it -- Bill and Hillary Clinton. A former business partner of Mrs. Clinton's brother Tony Rodham, Brazil is even the godfather of Mrs. Clinton's nephew, Simon Rodham.
A longtime Democratic operative and campaign fundraiser, Brazil switched allegiances in 2008 to run national operations for Citizens for McCain, Joseph Lieberman's 'nonpartisan' campaign group, and now appears to have fully transitioned across the aisle. Before joining the Cain campaign, he worked as a political consultant in Iraq, helping former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi win a majority in parliament in the country's 2010 elections. Allawi hired him at the recommendation of President Clinton, according to the Scranton Times-Tribune.
Brazil has brought along several of his former colleagues, including fellow Scranton son Charlie Spano, the New Hampshire field director. Brazil's deputy from Citizens for McCain, Imri Eisner, also recently joined the Cain campaign as vice president of coalitions and surrogates and Block's chief advisor. Eisner, a New York-based lawyer, is listed as a contact for PUMA, the pro-Hillary PAC behind the Obama 'birther' rumours.*
Correction: Eisner informs us that he was not and has never been affiliated with PUMA, and has never been a so-called 'birther.' He said he was not aware he was listed as a contact on the PUMA PAC website, and has no idea why that's the case.
A former Navy spokesman at Guantanamo Bay, Gordon is the campaign's sole media liaison. He's also tasked with helping Cain play catch up on national security issues -- a dual role that is further evidence Cain has completely thrown out the conventional campaign playbook.
Like many of Cain's staffers, Gordon has little campaign experience, making him an unlikely pick to be the voice of the campaign. But in reality, Gordon is a great -- and very creative -- snag for the Cain campaign; over the course of his career, he has extensive contacts with influential political journalists, and has himself contributed to Fox News, the Washington Times, and other right-leaning news outlets.
Gordon was on the verge of launching a Washington think tank, the centre for Security and Diplomacy, before he was asked to join the campaign, and he brought along a few of his former partners to beef up Cain's communications team. Robert Brockhaus, one of the founders of CSD, is now Cain's assistant vice president for communications. CSD's vice president for policy and research Matt Martini is responsible for the candidate's television and radio bookings, and Mark Pfeifle, a Bush administration veteran and former deputy national security advisor, is running the campaign's Rapid Response.
On the policy side, CDS board member Roger Pardo Maurer, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is advising Cain on Middle East policy.
h/t Foreign Policy
A newer addition to the Cain Train, Miyagishima is a significant pickup from Florida Gov. Rick Scott's staff, where he served as Director of Protocol and International Affairs for the State of Florida and on Scott's unlikely 2010 campaign.
An experienced advance man, Miyagishima was a senior advance staffer for President George W. Bush from 2007 to 2009 and served on the advance team for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was also reportedly the highest-paid advance man for Meg Whitman's failed gubernatorial bid in California.
After repeatedly refusing to name his economic advisors, Cain finally dropped Lowrie's name during an interview with Fox News last month, sending the Tweetoverse aflutter as people tried to determine the identity of this mysterious man.
As it turns out, Lowrie is not an economist, as Cain has claimed, but a Wells Fargo investment advisor based in Cleveland, Ohio. Another AFP veteran, Lowrie was brought on to the campaign by Block, first as an informal advisor and later as Cain's chief economic policy wonk.
According to this awesome profile in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Lowrie and Cain hatched the campaign's hallmark '9-9-9' tax plan on a flight to New Hampshire this summer, and thus the hottest economic sage of the 2012 Republican race was born.
Cain has since disclosed other members of his economic braintrust, including well-known supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, who Lowrie refers to as a 'close friend.' Laffer has not publicly announced his support for the 9-9-9 plan, however, and Lowrie remains Cain's main pointman for his hallmark campaign platform.
Although Hansen was not listed on today's staff announcement, the campaign confirms that she is still Block's right-hand women on the campaign. A grassroots Wisconsin activist, Hansen has been with the Cain team since the beginning; Cain writes in his autobiography that she played a key role in convincing Cain that he could be a legitimate White House contender.
Prior to launching the campaign, Hansen was Block's top aide at the Wisconsin AFP, where he tapped her to run the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, an umbrella group for the state's right-wing think tanks and activists. She is also the founder of AFP's 'Prosperity 101' initiative, a staunchly anti-union worker 'education' program that Cain has called 'a capitalist response to ACORN.'
Hansen is also tapped into the homeschool movement, conservative Christian networks that play a major role in GOP campaign organisations across the Midwest, including in Iowa's first-in-nation caucuses. A Bush campaign county chair in 2004, Hansen represents the cadre of GOP activists across the country who have shifted their allegiances to the Tea Party over the past several years. Along with Block, Hansen has played a key role in deploying Tea Party tactics to reach out to Republicans who are dissatisfied with Establishment candidates.
Naidu has the distinction of being the only campaign staffer, apart from Block and Hansen, to get a mention in Cain's new campaign book, This Is Herman Cain!
Although he does not specify his role on the campaign, Cain has high praise for Naidu, referring to hm as an 'eager, efficient, and well-informed 20-five-year-old graduate of the University of Alabama who majored in political science.' He also writes that Naidu refers to Cain by his future Secret Service name 'Cornbread,' on internal campaign schedules.
Naidu's official title, per Cain's book, indicates that he is the deputy assistant to Block. But reports from the campaign trail indicate that the young aide has a broader role, that is some combination of body man and campaign scheduler, and includes travelling with the candidate to all of his events. It is totally unclear how Naidu, a political unknown, landed this position on the hottest 2012 Republican campaign.
A political neophyte just barely out of undergrad, Barrow has the mammoth responsibility of keeping Cain up to speed on the policy issues of the day. Although he is occasionally referred to as Cain's research assistant, his job is actually much more expansive, including daily policy briefings and debate preparation.
Despite his relative youth, Barrow was actually among the first to jump on the Cain Train. According to his LinkedIn profile, he started working with Cain in 2008 as an intern on his Atlanta radio show, and has served Cain in some research capacity ever since.
Barrow is now responsible for coordinating all of Cain's presidential campaign advisors, most of whose identities remain a mystery. The campaign has disclosed that former RNC deputy Manny Rosales is advising Cain on immigration, and that former Marine Joseph Humire, a fellow at the free-market think tank Atlas Economic Research Foundation, is helping out with international economics.
h/t Foreign Policy
Harmon, a veteran campaign consultant, adds a little bit of Washington muscle to Cain's otherwise outside-the-Beltway senior staff. He even has presidential campaign experience, having served as the direct mail specialist for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. A former Tim Pawlenty backer, Harmon's shift to the Cain camp is evidence that the campaign is starting to think about using more traditional voter outreach strategies as fundraising picks up. Spano confirmed to Business Insider that the national campaign team has started to talk about launching phone and direct mail operations in early primary states.
Harmon has a lengthy campaign resume, including stints as campaign manager for Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich and U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. He is perhaps best known for orchestrating Chambliss's 2002 upset victory against Democratic incumbent Max Cleland, a disabled Vietnam veteran, with an attack ad that used images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein to question Cleland's commitment to national security.
Grubbs, a former chair of the Iowa GOP, is a big get for the Cain team, and shows that The Hermanator may actually be serious about winning the Republican nomination. Grubbs is a major player in Iowa Republican circles, and a veteran of the state's first-in-nation caucuses.
But while Grubbs may technically be part of the GOP Establishment in Iowa, he is on board with Cain's unconventional, DIY campaign strategy. He has basically built up Cain's Iowa organisation on his own, while the candidate himself is notable absent from the Hawkeye State.
As Cain beefs up campaign field operations, his team has put a major emphasis on Florida, contradicting criticism that the former pizza titan isn't really serious about running for president.
The Florida team is stacked with some of the state's most well-connected GOP operatives, many of whom switched over to the Cain camp after initially supporting one of his 2012 rivals. The campaign's state chairs include Kathleen Shanahan, former chief of staff for Jeb Bush, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, a former Mitt Romney supporter, and former state Sen. Carey Baker, who initially leaned toward Rick Perry. Cain also snagged veteran strategist Arlene DiBenigno as a senior advisor.
The campaign has also built out its organisation at the county level, hiring veteran grassroots activists to coordinate county chairs and coalitions throughout the state.
h/t Miami Herald
Now that he is a top-tier candidate, Cain has ramped up his fundraising and acquired a SuperPAC to accept unlimited donations to support his campaign.
The organisation was launched in mid-October to capitalise on Cain's surge to the top of the 2012 Republican field. But it got off to a bit of a rocky start, when the Federal Election Commission informed its founders that it's name, Americans For Herman Cain, was illegal (SuperPACs are technically independent, so their names can't refer to any particular candidate). The executives have since officially changed the name to 'The 9-9-9 Fund,' but still refer to the organisation by its original name.
Gehrke, a veteran political consultant with deep Tea Party ties, is responsible for the effort. Gehrke is best known for orchestrating Sharron Angle's upstart bid for Nevada Senate in 2010.
Given Cain's grassroots campaign strategy -- and Gehrke's relative inexperience with big-money donors -- it is unclear how a SuperPAC will benefit a candidate who is relying primarily on small donors. But according to the NYT, Gehrke insists they are attracting donors looking to dig deep for the Tea Party cause.
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