He was the CEO of a chain of pizza restaurants and is now arguably the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president. Not many took Herman Cain seriously as a candidate when he first announced his campaign, but he is now getting endless media coverage. Most recently, he has seen all sorts of attention for a bizarre political ad that featured someone in his senior staff smoking a cigarette, and more seriously, multiple allegations of sexual harassment from his past.
Will these new developments affect his chances to get the nomination? If his campaign cannot get them to die down soon, they likely will. But it is also likely that Cain will not be too disappointed if he does not win. In his eyes, Cain has already achieved what he set out to do, and that is to become known.
In the eyes of the media, there are two types of presidential candidates: the “desirables” and the “undesirables.” The desirables are the ones the media focuses their coverage on and are otherwise known as the frontrunners. The undesirables are those the media cares about only enough to remember to send debate invitations.
Cain entered the race as an undesirable, and he knew it. It is likely not a stretch to say that Cain has never realistically, at least maybe until recently, thought he could make it into the Oval Office in 2012. When he first started the campaign, Cain knew his chances were slim, and he still decided to run. This is because even if a candidate loses, many of them still end up winning.
You probably had not heard of Cain before he ran for president, but now you have. Many candidates hope they can get national name recognition. Cain, though, has achieved more than name recognition – people are aware of who he is and what he stands for, and this will lead to a lot of success for him even if he does not win.
A good example to compare Cain to is former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He was a relative unknown before he announced his intention to run and continued to be an unknown until he surprisingly became one of the chief rivals to John McCain. He did not end up winning the nomination, but he did end up getting a deal for a talk show on Fox News. It is quite likely the money he is making on that talk show is more than the money he would be making if he became president, which I also might add is a much more time-consuming and stressful job.
Cain has now established himself as a public figure. Assuming Cain does not win, the day he bows out of the race will coincide with the day he receives tons of lucrative job offers.
His campaign has already succeeded at increasing his income. He released two books this year and his campaign has served simultaneously as a book tour. If you want to sell more copies of your book, getting into the race for president is definitely a very effective way to do that.
Many commentators have been flabbergasted by Cain’s campaign strategy of visiting states that do not factor into the nomination schedule many months later. Most of the candidates spend a lot of time in the first states in the primary calendar, like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. Winning one of these early states almost immediately puts the candidate in the driver's seat to the nomination. Cain, though, has been spending time in states like Alabama. There are 24 states that vote before Alabama. It is not too hard to see the connection between the convenient book-release timing and his odd campaign schedule.
Cain knows what he wants from this campaign, and he seems to already be achieving it. Even if Cain is not merely interested in money and easy fame and actually wants to become the president of the United States, the success of his campaign and his new public and political figure status will enable him to possibly be more successful in another future run for president. At the very least, he can reasonably demand being considered for the vice presidential slot on the eventual Republican ticket.
It is possible his new frontrunner status will motivate him to strive harder to actually put together a real professional campaign and win in 2012. But at this point, judging by the fact that he gave the OK to the borderline-creepy “smoking” political ad, I am not yet sure that he is going for the win.