Herman Cain campaign is smokin' - with new cash

The Herman Cain campaign has raked in at least $3 million in October, says chief of staff Mark Block. That bests Cain's fundraising tally for the entire third quarter of 2011.

Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star/AP
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain talk to a tea party group in Anniston, Ala. on Friday.

Herman Cain may be an unconventional presidential candidate, but he’s proving a time-honored convention in politics: buzz brings cash.

Since the start of October, donors have given more than $3 million to the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, according to his chief of staff, Mark Block, speaking on CNN Thursday night. That’s more than the $2.8 million Mr. Cain brought in for the entire third quarter of 2011. Cain has also more than doubled his donor base since Oct. 1, from 30,000 people to more than 65,000, Mr. Block says.

“So we’ve actually doubled in a little over a month,” Block says. “That’s what we’re seeing in our grass-roots activism growth and obviously in the YouTube thing."

Ah, the YouTube thing. After Cain himself, Block has become the face of the Cain campaign after appearing in a now-viral Web ad that features him – and his now-famous drag on a cigarette. Block says the ad has been seen by more than 3 million people, but a check of Cain’s YouTube page shows pageviews at just over 1 million. Maybe his sources are including all the free air time the ad has gotten on cable, such as on Stephen Colbert's show, where the sendup is even more entertaining than the ad itself.

Block also insists that Cain is “serious about the early states” – though, at the time of the interview, Cain was in Arkansas, which isn’t an early primary state the last time we checked.

“We have operations in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Florida, and other states,” Block said. Later, he said the campaign has organizations in all 50 states. Cain has faced news reports describing a campaign in “chaos,” with big staff turnover, missed fundraising opportunities, and scheduling snafus.

But never mind. CNN’s Erin Burnett got Block to talk about the most burning question surrounding the Cain campaign: What was that ad supposed to be, anyway?

Cain is a “man of the people,” Block replied. “Kind of like what I was talking about with the ad. It resonated with the VFW people in Iowa and other people across the country.”

In making that ad, which was shot in Las Vegas and features Block simply making a pitch for Cain, he says he was told, “just let Block be Block.”

“Like if you know what I tell Mr. Cain before he goes to a debate. I said, ‘Herman, just be Herman.’ And that's me,” Block says.

“I mean, I don't condone smoking. I wouldn't encourage anybody to do it, but it's my choice. And it's kind of a joke on the campaign trail – especially with reporters now that try to find me. If they go outside of a hotel during a break, I'm usually there with my iPhone and a cup of coffee and a cigarette.”

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