Atlanta businessman Herman Cain will begin a nine-day bus tour of Iowa next week, leading up to the Aug. 11 Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News and the Aug. 13 Ames Straw Poll.
“After 24 visits to the great state of Iowa, I have enjoyed getting to know the people, listening to their ideas and sharing with them my common sense solutions for America,” Cain said in a statement announcing his “Common Sense Solutions” tour. “I hope to see the thousands of friends I’ve made throughout my many visits during this bus tour, at the Fox News debate and at the straw poll in Ames.”
The Republican presidential candidate’s initial itinerary is:
The Cain campaign said additional tour stops would be announced later. Cain reshuffled his Iowa operation earlier this month (see “Iowa Calling,” The American Spectator, July 6) amid complaints from some of his grassroots supporters about staff conflicts in the state which hosts the first official vote of the 2012 presidential campaign.
Cain’s presidential bid had been seen by many as a long shot — the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO joked that his was a “dark horse” campaign — but caught fire after his strong showing in a May 5 debate in South Carolina. A post-debate focus group found Cain the near-unanimous winner of that debate, a result Fox News pollster Frank Luntz called “unprecedented.”
The Aug. 13 Ames straw poll will be a crucial test of Cain’s “ground game” organization in Iowa. The state’s Republican Party recently announced that the Ames ballot will omit Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Some observers saw that move as benefitting Minnessota Rep. Michele Bachman — who got a boost after a highly praised performance in last month’s New Hampshire debate — and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whose campaign has so far failed to match early expectations. “If Pawlenty is not in the top two [in the Ames straw poll], he’ll need to drop out,” Iowa GOP activist Doug Gross told Politico‘s Dan Hirschhorn last week.
Whether or not that assessment is accurate, if Pawlenty does place in the lower tier of candidates at Ames, it may well be because of a stronger-than-expected showing by Cain, who has been a popular speaker at Tea Party rallies since 2009. Earlier this month, after Pawlenty announced a $4.2 million fundraising total for the second quarter that ended June 30, Cain announced he had raised nearly $2.5 million and pointed out that his campaign was debt-free. The most recent Iowa poll, by the Republican firm Magellan Strategies, showed Cain and Pawlenty tied for third, behind Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.