Herman Cain’s bizarre political campaign is putting his new $9 million cash windfall to good use.
The campaign rolled out a new, uber-professional looking website today, complete with a geolocation feature that prompts you to join Team Cain in your state.
The new site represents a new phase of Cain’s upstart White House bid, as the former pizza titan solidifies his position at the top of national polls despite his recent sexual harassment troubles. What began as an absurdly unconventional national promotional tour is slowly becoming recognisable as a legitimate presidential campaign.
The once barebones campaign team is in the midst of a major branding overhaul, engineered by Washington Political Group tech consultancy and Studio 223 design shop, two Atlanta-based companies. The two firms were responsible for about 95% of the new website, but parted ways with Cain’s campaign about two weeks ago, a source involved with the project told Business Insider today. In addition to the site, the firms also rolled out rebranded the Cain’s social media and web campaigns, and revamped the design of Cain’s new campaign bus.
According to the source, the firms synthesized Cain’s early campaign messages — i.e. “common sense solutions,” “let’s get real” — into a one-word brand: “Renewal.”
“The idea is that the leader facilitates the success of those who lead,” the source said. “[He] inspires people to make their own future.”
The source said Cain’s new campaign brand is designed around the idea that people who are inspired to be their own leaders don’t have to look to government for leadership — a message that resonates with the disaffected anti-Establishment wing of the Republican Party that Cain appeals to.
“Renewal” also refers to our future by looking to the past, the source added, hitting on another key grassroots conservative message.
Cain’s marketing overhaul comes as the campaign finally focuses its efforts on early-voting states — and Iowa in particular — after months of traipsing around politically insignificant states like Alabama and Tennessee. In just the past week, Cain’s “Iowa Fund” has raised more than $1.2 million to build up his field operations in the state.
Cain, a former restaurant executive and conservative talk radio personality, and his campaign manager Mark Block, have thrown the traditional playbook out the window and gone all in on an unorthodox national strategy that emphasises the candidate’s name and message, rather than the early-state retail politics and endorsement jockeying typical of presidential primary campaigns.
Strangely, the plan seems to be working. With just seven weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses, there is a growing possibility that Cain could win that first primary contest. His co-frontrunner Mitt Romney has put minimal resources into Iowa, where he lost in a major way in 2008. Moreover, the Republican caucuses are basically a straw poll, so a candidate can technically win the state with as little as 25% of the vote.
But while the campaign is expanding early primary state operations, it is still sticking to the original “50-state strategy” to win the Republican nomination, Cain’s communications director J.D. Gordon told Business Insider.
“It’s a grassroots strategy, that’s based on Mr. Cain’s name ID,” Gordon said, pointing out that Cain’s name recognition has skyrocketed to 78% over the past six months. He added that the apparently random campaign stops are “consistent with a macrostrategy” to get Cain’s message out to voters across the country, not just in early primary states.
In short, what has looked to many like a glorified book tour is actually a strategic rollout designed to tap into the conservative grassroots networks that have evolved since the 2008 election, as a result of the Tea Party movement and a new wave of evangelical leaders who are renergizing the Christian Right.
Supporters are left to build the campaign organisation on their own, using the Herman Cain Express website as an organising platform to build and mobilize grassroots networks of like-minded voters. “Cainiacs” are responsible for identifying other potential supporters, and disseminating the candidate’s message through their own social networks.
Gordon admitted that the strategy is untested and unorthodox, but added that it plays to the strengths of Cain’s senior staff — 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.
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.
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Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the campaign’s new website was designed by Burrell Communications.
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