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August 8th, 2011

A Third Place Finish for Cain Might Be Difficult to Achieve

Herman Cain began introducing himself to Iowa Republicans just over a year ago. Most candidates who have never held public office struggle to gain acceptance with activists, let alone the traditional media, but that was not the case for Herman Cain.  The businessman from Georgia spent the fall of 2010 introducing himself to GOP and Tea Party activists who were impressed with what they saw and heard.

While Iowa activists easily accepted Cain, it was yet to be seen if he could gain acceptance as a legitimate candidate nationally. The rest of the nation became aware of Cain’s abilities after the first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign, but even before that, Cain was turning heads in the media at high profile campaign events in Iowa and across the nation.

Cain’s meteoric rise was impressive because of how early he was able to burst out onto the national scene.  Ironically it was his best moment in the race, the South Carolina Fox News debate, that may have altered his strategy in Iowa.  As the candidate in demand, Cain suddenly was appearing on cable news shows on a nightly basis.  Instead of campaigning regularly in places like Iowa, Cain was doing in-studio interviews in New York and Washington D.C.

It’s hard to criticize Cain for seizing the opportunity to become better known across the country, but those interviews kept him away from the campaign trail in Iowa.  Last week at the Greater Des Moines Partnership forum, Cain told the audience of about 50 or so that the strength is his ability to gain the support of people who he has the opportunity to speak to.

Cain is absolutely right.  He is gifted in interacting with a crowd.  He is the Cain campaign’s greatest asset.  His talents were on display at the forum in Des Moines, but his last minute push before the crucial Ames Straw Poll may be too little, too late.

Cain told reporters on Thursday that he expects a third place finish in Ames.  When you look at poll numbers, a third place finish seems about right, but the Straw Poll is an organizational test, just like the caucuses.  Cain’s been campaigning in other states while other candidates like Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum have been crisscrossing the Iowa for the last 45 days. pressed Cain on his strategy at the forum on Thursday, something Cain bristled at. According to the Des Moines Register’s candidate tracker, Cain has only spent two days in Iowa in July making just four stops.  In June he spent three days in Iowa for a total of seven stops.   As the campaigning has intensified before the Ames Straw Poll, Cain’s stock in Iowa has dropped, mainly because he’s not been here.

If Cain is unable to finish third in Ames like he predicts he will, his candidacy will be one of missed opportunities.  Campaigning in every little nook and cranny in Iowa isn’t necessarily the most exciting thing a candidate can do in a summer, but it can be rewarding work if you are running for president.  Just ask Mike Huckabee who used such a strategy to upset the national frontrunner in the 2008 caucuses.

Cain is now embarking on a weeklong bus tour, but instead of solidifying his support, he’s now trying to make up for lost time.  If he is disappointed in Ames, he will have nobody to blame but himself.  In many respects, Iowa was his for the taking, but the bright lights of the television studio distracted him.  If he was really in it to win it, he should have camped out in Iowa like his competition has.  You can campaign in other states in September.

It is always better to make news than just to be a guest on a news channel.

Photo by Dave Davidson,

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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