Yesterday I went to Nashua New Hampshire to cover Herman Cain at an event in the Radisson Hotel. I arrived about an hour early to get a look at the layout and decide where I was going to place myself. It was a real study in contrasts from previous events.
I met Herman Cain for the first time at CPAC 2011, I knew at the time Stacy McCain really liked this guy and he gave me two minutes outside of bloggers row:
At the time I declared him an “acceptable” candidate for president but didn’t think much more of it. At CPAC you see a whole lot of people.
I first covered Herman Cain proper in March of this year while I was still at my old blog. That encounter was at Joey’s Diner in Amherst during his 6th visit to Ne. He spoke to a small room, maybe 25-30 people as I recall (you couldn’t fit much more in that room) I was pretty much the only “press” there at the time and I scored this interview:
There was a prophetic moment in that first interview:
“What that did was it told, it confirmed what we suspected is it confirmed what we suspected that the awareness of Herman Cain at the grass roots level was much greater than a lot of people realized especially the mainstream media…”
Later that day he spoke in Nashua at the Crowne Plaza Hotel as the keynote speaker for Reagan Day Reception.
There was a fair crowd but it was for an event independent of Mr. Cain, some folk took pictures of and with him but it didn’t indicate a groundswell at the time.
As you can see it was MUCH easier to get to Herman Cain in those days.
When Mr. Cain opened his Manchester Office In August 19th of this year I was there (in fact my Ethernet cable still is)
It was a small place and once again the voters had intimate access,
NH State Rep Steve Smith came out for Cain
There was a small gaggle of cameras and it was not difficult to get a question in during the event.
He also hinted at his economic program that would become known as 9-9-9.
There is always the danger of judging a candidate based upon his events so when I returned to Nashua for the Tea Party Express/Palin event I asked the folks at the Red Arrow Diner who have seen many pols come and and spot a phony at 30 paces, go what their impression of Mr. Cain was. They told me that like Hillery Clinton he was attentive and personable taking time and an interest in what was being said. This was a good sign for Mr. Cain.
Not long afterwards came the Florida Straw poll and the sudden rise of Herman Cain from the pack to front runner and contender. At the Dartmouth debate Herman Cain was the hot ticket in the room.
The media was all over Cain and more importantly he was sucking so much oxygen out of the room that something had to be done, and Politico attempted to do it, rather in artfully and when a week of vagary failed to move the polls Gloria Allred was enlisted to try to move the polls.
Alas as Cain’s fundraising continued unabated as apparently for unknown reason the GOP base distrusts the MSM objectivity on this subject. In fact it wasn’t until candidate Rick Perry brain freeze that Mr. Cain was moved off the front burner.
So yesterday we came full circle. Herman Cain in Nashua New Hampshire, less that 100 days after his previous visit and the differences were astounding:
You had much more staff that was considerably more organized and you had a touch of security too.
Any of the two rooms or the hallway was larger than the area of the campaign HQ in Manchester:
I don’t recall country stars opening for him at the previous events either
Most importantly was both the quantity of the press, (there were more press present at this event than supporters at the opening of his HQ three months ago) and the quality of press as well:
Note the photographer on the right, I first met him at the Tea Party Express Palin event, he has taken shots of those who matter for magazines and newspapers nationwide for decades and today he was there to practice his art on Herman Cain.
The critiques of the MSM didn’t effect the willingness of NH State reps to back him:
and more importantly it didn’t stop undecided voters from coming down to check him out men:
When he finally took the stage, a bit late (a candidate lateness seems inversely proportional to his standing in polls doesn’t it?) he seemed to draw energy from the crowd
and the crowd seemed very interested in what he had to say:
His speech was solid, his direct attack on the occupy movement and his acknowledgement of a “leadership” crisis really hit home
And his contention that a simplified tax code is a danger to the establishment, but it was the responsibility of the voter to “hold their feet to the fire” played extremely well
This is where the strength of Herman Cain and the weakness of the media plays out. The media took a sound byte and played it up, in fact I was tweaked on twitter by Dave Weigel for missing the “leader not a reader” byte, but New Hampshire doesn’t vote on sound bytes, they don’t have to. New Hampshire voters get to see the candidates close up and hear what they say directly and what they don’t hear in person, they can hear in full without the MSM filtering it.
It’s a retail politics state and Herman Cain seems ready to make the sale as typified by the last video I shot that day of two ladies who have been backing Cain for a while.
I found their reaction typical of the Cain supports I talked to.
Thus the evolution of the Cain campaign, from the back of the pack to front runner and contender, will it continue? I must admit some informed bias here. There were two moments that struck me personally at this event, take a peek at the opening video.
at the :33 second mark he notices me, looks into the camera and acknowledges me. The second was at the end of the speech.
The second came when he left the state at the end it’s at the 2:10 mark
“Hey, Pete you can’t predict me”
I was not wearing a name tag, my business card was not visible and doesn’t have my name on it, Herman Cain meets literally tens of thousands of people a day. This was the 6th time he has seen me in his life and yet he not only acknowledged me before he started he answered me by name.
Granted the hat helps a bit here, but consider, I have not like Stacy McCain endorsed his candidacy, nor have I kicked in a penny or have I encouraged others to do so to his campaign, yet he remembered me and treated me with respect.
Multiply that time thousands of folks he has encountered and that add up to a force stronger than the MSM’s ability to bring him down. How do you counter that kind of impression with a snarky sound byte, you can’t.
And that is the final word on the evolution of Herman Cain, he has evolved in size and stature at his events, his campaign has become more professional and less spontaneous, but he has on a personal level, remained the same person he was back at Joey’s Diner on a March afternoon in Amherst New Hampshire.