On the day of the Ames Straw Poll Saturday, Herman Cain told reporters that even if he came in “dead last” in the poll, he would still continue his presidential campaign. Cain is still vowing to march on, despite a fifth-place finish and the long odds of him becoming the nominee.
Just a few days before the poll, on Aug. 10th, Cain had told NBC News that he need to finish in the top six of the nine names that appeared on the straw-poll ballot, three of whom, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich, did not participate in the day’s events.
“If we come in fourth, fifth or sixth, that’s not a loss,” said Cain, who wound up finishing fifth with just 9% of the vote behind Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the race the next day.
Cain had sounded more optimistic, however, less than two weeks earlier. In an interview with conservative website Pajamas Media July 31st, Cain said, “We predict that we should finish in the top three.
And at an August 4th forum in Iowa, he said, “I need to finish in the top three,” according to the Des Moines Register. The Register points out that Cain also said if he finished fourth or fifth, he would not drop out of the campaign, but “it’s just gonna be a harder analysis that we would do to decide if we go forward.”
Cain’s goalpost-shifting suggests his campaign was trying to manage expectations for the nationally watched straw poll, even as the businessman, who has never held elected office, had done well in other recent straw polls, including first place in the Western Conservative Summit’s poll in Denver.
In that poll, Cain bested Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had not yet announced his presidential bid, getting 48% of the 508 ballots compared to Perry’s 13%. Both addressed the group. But The Denver Post noted: “Typically, the straw-poll results reflect ‘who's given the best speech, not how people plan on voting,’ said Katy Atkinson, a local conservative political consultant.”
Cain still received more votes than Perry in the Ames straw poll, but the Texas governor did not participate in the event and was not on the ballot. Perry, a write-in candidate, beat Mitt Romney, who also was on the ballot but didn’t organize around the event this year.
When asked to comment on Cain’s shifting his expectations, campaign spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael said, “Mr. Cain believes in setting goals and striving to achieve them. Our campaign spent $0 on paid media -- radio or television advertisements -- and less than $100,000 on the straw poll all-together. As a good businessman, Mr. Cain knew it would be important not to 'bet the farm' on Ames, or any straw poll for that matter. He has opted, instead, to save resources as we approach the Iowa caucus.”
Cain rose rapidly earlier this year -- he was well received at many speeches, even compared to top-tier candidates. He was declared by a FOX News focus group the overwhelming winner of the first Republican debate in Greenville, SC. But with the entrance of Rep. Michele Bachmann, questions about his views on Muslims, as well as his knowledge of issues like the war in Afghanistan, the initial momentum that Cain generated on a national scale has all but dissipated.