“He’s running for president of the United States, not the president of Iowa,” says Lockwood, who is amiable even by Iowa standards. She says the campaign has been organizing in the key Republican areas and spreading the word through social media. The campaign isn’t likely to launch a big wave of commercials. The operation “is very lean. He is a business man. He doesn’t spend what he doesn’t have.”
In the end, says Lockwood, “I would be a little surprised if we don’t bring in a caucus win.” She bases that on the enthusiasm she’s seen from Iowa voters. One person saw her at Wal-Mart shopping in a Cain T-shirt and asked to volunteer. “It’s just a yay-positive spiral upward,” she says, describing the power of Cain’s appeal to the simple. “He has ‘kid logic’ that can’t be argued with. The example I use is my daughter. She was rinsing off her feet in the water in Florida, and I said, ‘You’re getting your pants wet.’ She looked at me and said ‘That’s what water does, Mom.’ That was so Herman Cain-esque.”
Organizations aren’t simply necessary to shuttle voters to the caucuses. They help put out brush fires, too. Cain recently caused himself a problem on the issue of abortion. When asked about his belief that abortion should not be legal even in the case of rape or incest, he said that in the case of rape, ultimately the decision was a personal one. Santorum, who is something of a town crier when it comes to responding first to his opponent’s mistakes said the stance was “the quintessential pro-choice position on abortion.” Cain has since clarified his position, but the Susan B. Anthony list, a group of conservative women who oppose abortion rights, blasted him in an email.
Cain also had to walk back his claim that he would release prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for U.S. hostages. One former staffer says that these examples show that Cain will talk himself out of his positions if you give him enough time. And Cain has also emphasized the details of his 9-9-9 tax plan to respond to criticism: In Detroit Friday highlighting “empowerment zones” where taxes would be lower, he said in certain instances it would be a “9-0-9 plan.”
For all of the conventional wisdom about the necessity of campaigning hard in Iowa, there are plenty of candidates in both parties who have done the spade work and come up empty. Lamar Alexander and John Edwards wound up faltering because they’d done so much work in Iowa they didn’t meet expectations. The same happened to Romney in 2008, which is why he’s approaching the state with caution now. (He’s only been to Iowa six times.) If the current two top contenders in the polls in Iowa wind up doing well, while states like Nevada and Florida scramble the early-selection process, 2012 may be remembered as the year that Iowa’s pre-eminent position finally cracked.