By the time most people knew the name Mark Block, Herman Cain‘s campaign was already on the rise. And with the release of a bizarre web ad showing him smoking, Block became a full-blown political celebrity. (At the time, I remarked that it was a mistake for a strategist to seek the limelight. After all, the campaign should be about Herman Cain.)
Then, the scandals started to hit. And in the week or so since the allegations of sexual harassment first surfaced, Cain’s team has failed to put out a series of fires. What is more, Block threw fuel on the fire, alienating some conservatives by publicly accusing Rick Perry’s campaign of being behind the leak (before walking it back) — and later — falsely claiming a former Politico reporter named Josh Kraushaar was the son of Cain accuser Karen Kraushaar. These are the kinds of accusations that one does not cavalierly make without being sure the facts are correct. And yet Block made them on national television.
For obvious reasons, some have concluded that for Herman Cain to have any shot at turning things around, he must dispatch Block. Here are three reasons Cain should consider making the move:
1. If anyone ever needed a real political ‘pro’ it’s Herman Cain. Herman Cain is an unconventional candidate, but this doesn’t mean he has to run an amateurish campaign. Pairing Cain with a serious, proven professional operation might be the way to get the best of both worlds.
“I will say what others in the professional political community are thinking,” says Chris LaCivita, a top GOP strategist. “To succeed, Cain must come to the realization that he needs professionals, not professional wannabes. How he staffs his campaign would be indicative of how he staffs the white house, and right now, scandals aside, block is his biggest problem.”
Cain might also want to consider bringing on a smart, female spokesperson to help handle the recent allegations.
2. Cain needs to move on, and this might symbolically help him do that. The public seems to have a vestigial urge to sacrifice someone as penitence for sins. Sometimes, of course, throwing a man overboard is merely chum in the water; it only serves to excite your opponents. But sometimes, throwing a man in the volcano does satiate the gods (or, at least, the crowd).
When a football team is failing, you fire the coach. It sends a message. It changes the tone. And, in this case, it would subtly imply Cain’s problems are not substantive — they are strategic.
Cain has few options. Giving up Block might work.
3. Block has made himself vulnerable by becoming a “celebrity” consultant. The downside to becoming part of the story is that you become part of the problem — and ultimately part of the solution. By cavalierly making unproven allegations against Rick Perry and Politico, Block is guilty of the same kinds of flimsy accusations he has chastised the media for making.
So will Cain rid us of this turbulent chief of staff? I doubt it. Block got Cain into the campaign, persuading him to run for president. And Cain doesn’t seem like the type of man to admit a mistake — and ousting Block is a tacit admission of that.
But the smart political move is to make the move. “If Mark Block is still with the campaign by this afternoon,” says one veteran strategist, “we’ll know if Cain is on a book tour or really trying to win the White House.