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ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks during the Republican Party ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 24: Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks during the Republican Party's Florida Presidency 5 convention at the Orange County Convention Center on September 24, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)  

Meet Mark Block, the man who talked Herman Cain into running for president

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

The man who talked Herman Cain into running for president, and plotted a strategy that has the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO surging in the GOP presidential race, knows both highs and lows.

Mark Block was the first 18-year-old ever elected to office in Wisconsin when he was voted onto the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors in 1974.

Yet he was also banned from politics in Wisconsin for three years and forced to pay a $15,000 fine after being accused by the Wisconsin State Elections Board of violating election law in 1997 as campaign manager to state Supreme Court Justice Jon P. Wilcox.

The Wilcox campaign was accused of illegally coordinating activities with an outside group which mounted a get-out-the-vote effort. To this day, Block denies any wrongdoing.

“Politics at times is ugly,” Block, who worked as an official at Americans for Prosperity before becoming Cain’s chief of staff and campaign manager this year, explained during an interview with The Daily Caller.

He claims the state’s attorney general only went after him because it was “decided it would be a good thing not to have Mark Block involved in the next election cycle.”

Block settled with the Wisconsin State Elections Board without admitting guilt. Broke and unable to work in politics under the settlement, he stocked shelves at Target.

His political rehabilitation includes meeting Herman Cain several years later, when Block was working as the head of the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

“Mark was asked to launch branches in Michigan and Ohio,” Cain recalls in his book that comes out this week, “and I was asked to help him … we ended up spending a lot of time together, much of it in a car, traveling from meeting to meeting.”

Mapping a campaign strategy

After getting to know Cain well, Block flew to Las Vegas to have dinner with him in March 2010, where he laid out a strategy with aide Linda Hansen for how Cain could become a viable GOP presidential candidate if he ran.

“When we’re having a really good day, it was his idea,” Block said with a laugh. “When we’re having really bad days, he says, ‘Block, you’re the jerk who talked me into this.’”

Cain writes in his book that Block had actually discussed the presidency with him in 2006. Block said in the interview that people kept pleading with Cain to run for president back then after hearing him speak at Americans for Prosperity events.

“But then my cancer was diagnosed and everything went on hold as I underwent treatment,” Cain wrote. “Now, four years later, in March 2010, I was cancer free and the time seemed right to revisit the possibility of seeking the presidential nomination.”