DUBUQUE – Herman Cain says he is being “realistic rather than overly optimistic” in predicting a top three finish in the Iowa precinct caucuses.
“You just never know in politics, you can’t accurately predict all the different dynamics that may impact the voters, the caucus-goers,” the Georgia businessman said before a meet-and-greet with about 200 people at a downtown Dubuque coffeehouse Nov. 15.
What happens in Iowa, Cain said, can set the tone for the remainder of the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
“Finishing in the top three will suggest that my message of solving the problems, of putting bold solutions on the table, is resonating with Iowa voters,” Cain said.
So despite a firestorm of allegations of sexual harassment dating back to the 1990s when he headed the national restaurant Association, Cain is encouraged by a Bloomberg News poll showing leading among likely Iowa caucus-goers. With 20 percent, Cain was in a statistical tie with Texas Rep. Ron Paul, 19 percent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 18 percent, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 17 percent.
Questions about those allegations and what Cain called “fly-specking” his rambling answer to a question about his support for President Obama’s handling of Libya were not his only problems Tuesday.
His Iowa headquarters were occupied by the Occupy Des Moines protesters who oppose his plans to shrink the federal government. About 25 protesters entered the Cain offices and stayed until Urbandale police removed them. Cain was scheduled to have a press conference there, but moved it to another location because his staff thought the Occupy Des Moines protesters would return.
Cain acknowledged that the allegations against him and his lack of clarity in answering questions about foreign policy have “dampened” poll numbers, “but it has not devastated this campaign.”
To him, that suggests that Iowans are looking beyond the headlines to examine his solutions.
“The voters here in Iowa don’t just look at you and your solutions superficially,” he said. “They look below that. They understand what real leadership looks like. They liked to see solutions. They want to know if you can tackle the big issue.”
Cain met with about 200 people – many of them from the media – at Manna Java World Café for about 20 minutes. Cain gave an abridged version of his stump speech touching on energy independence, the economy and his 9-9-9 tax plan, but didn’t talk about the sexual harassment allegations that have dogged him in recent weeks. During an interview, he called the charges “baseless” and said he and his family have “moved on.”
It was Cain’s second visit to Iowa since finishing fifth in the Aug. 13 Iowa GOP Straw Poll. While he doesn’t have the campaign structure of his rivals, Cain expressed confidence he’ll be prepared for the Jan. 3 caucuses.
So in the final 50 days of the caucus campaign, he’ll be spending much more time in Iowa.
“You going to get sick of me I’m going to be here so often,” he joked. Cain will be back in Iowa Saturday for a The Family Leader forum in Des Moines and plans an “intensive” schedule after Thanksgiving.
“Even though I may not spend as much time here in Iowa as some of the other candidates, that in itself has not dampened the support we’ve been building,” Cain said. When people get on the ‘Crain Train’ they don’t get off.”