Herman Cain’s presidential campaign is picking up steam as voters learn more about him, the New York Times reports.
Cain, the radio talking head and former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, has long been a Tea Party favorite. But his appeal in recent months has been spreading to mainstream Republicans. His name recognition, despite being at a fairly low 37 percent, has come up 16 points since March.
Pundits declared him the winner of the first GOP debate last month, and he’s won straw polls at several conservative conventions. And just last week, a new Gallup poll found Cain had the highest voter intensity score in the Republican field of potential candidates, meaning his supporters are actually excited about him.
On his 13th trip to New Hampshire, people are more enthralled with him than ever. One woman told the New York Times it was Cain’s enthusiasm that drew her to him. “Wasn’t that what we felt with Ronald Reagan, his enthusiasm?”
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said her group loves him. “He’s not a senator or a governor. He’s just a mister.”
Though many like him, Republican pundits have a hard time seeing him win the nomination. Karl Rove dismissed him as a “talk radio guy in Atlanta” and said a presidential campaign is about more than just getting voters excited. Charles Krauthammer called Cain’s campaign “entertainment.”
Cain has a simple response to those critics: “They don’t get it.” Echoing the message of his biggest supporters in the Tea Party, he told the New York Times, “There is a big disconnect between the quote unquote establishment and regular folks. The people on the ground get it.”
The key to connecting with people, he says, is to just be himself, “Herman being Herman. And you notice, Herman enjoys life – I can smile, I can have a sense of humor, I’m being Herman.”
Cain predicts he’ll finish in the top three in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. And, says the New York Times, more and more voters seem to agree.