Herman Cain leaving the campaign trail: Why now?

Herman Cain is surging in popularity in a number of polls. So why is Herman Cain putting his campaign on hold for the next month?

AP Photo/Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Curtis Compton
Copies of Republican presidential candidate businessman Herman Cain's book on display in Milton, Ga.

The Hermantor Experience is, by almost any measure, the hottest thing going in the GOP presidential primary (not named Chris Christie).

As Decoder wrote last week, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain is romping in straw polls (Florida, and, this weekend, the National Federation of Republican Women), killing it on social media, climbing in at least one national poll, and promoting a new book. Columnists at the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner have both given him love.

It’s momentum and recognition that the Rick Santorums and Jon Huntsmans of the GOP world must be lusting after.

But Cain seems destined to squander it. And here’s why.

As NBC’s thoughtful First Read points out this morning, Cain's promoting a book - and appears to be taking himself off the campaign trail for almost a month.

Cain won’t be back in the key state of Iowa until November. With all of the jiggering of the Republican primary calendar, that means he’ll have six weeks (at best) to pound the trail before the Iowa caucuses in early January.

Perhaps equally telling, Cain's well-regarded communications director and her deputy are both leaving the campaign, with the director headed to… run press operations for Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne in a tough primary election. That’s not exactly a vote of confidence in Cain’s presidential prospects.

Herman Cain's campaign isn’t dead by any means. But look at the difference between his campaign and that of Texas Congressman Ron Paul. With Paul rising in the polls, the congressman started cutting aggressive broadcast ads pounding Texas Gov. Rick Perry, among others, and hauling in campaign dollars. Paul’s got two events in New Hampshire today.

When you peel off the campaign trail for four weeks in the heat of the fight, it raises questions about just what the heck a candidate is doing in the race anyway. As Decoder previously wrote, all candidates not named Rick Perry or Mitt Romney have another goal in running for president to keep them going in the face of their slim poll numbers. For Ron Paul, it’s moving the national conversation toward his libertarian themes. For Jon Huntsman, it’s setting up a potential bid in 2016. For Michele Bachmann, it’s enshrining herself as a leading light of the GOP’s most hard-right members.

When you take yourself off the campaign trail just to flog a book, it raises the question: Why are you still around, Herman Cain? And what’s the real motive behind this run?

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