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Herman Cain basking in the attention

It's a good time to be Herman Cain.

The former Godfather's Pizza CEO has been on a roll in the days since his surprise straw poll win at Florida's Presidency 5 conference over the weekend, racking up more media attention, new support and fundraising than he's had for months.

Cain isn't seen as any more likely a nominee after the straw poll than he was going into it. Though he won decisively, the results are largely seen as more significant because of Rick Perry's distant second-place finish after a strong push to win. Cain's still trailing in the polls — the most recent, released Monday by CNN and ORC International, shows Cain with 7 percent support, behind Perry, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and tied with Rep. Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. But Cain's been riding a boost of momentum that's revitalized a campaign that had stalled in recent weeks.

Now the trick is keeping it up.

There won't be a debate for a week, taking the presidential campaign out of the news just at the moment when he's getting his time in the spotlight again. On top of that, Cain's still recovering from the flu, and he's about to set out on a long-scheduled national book tour that will take him out of daily campaigning.

In the meantime, he's basking in the attention — he even got a surprise endorsement from comedian and conservative talk show host Dennis Miller, who said he was "over the moon" when he heard Cain won.

"This guy's the one who makes sense to me. He's a sweet man. He's not self-aggrandizing," Miller said on his show.

Cain spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael said the campaign hadn't known in advance that Miller planned to endorse Cain or offer to host a Los Angeles fundraiser for the businessman, but that's what the past few days have been like.

"It's been a hell of a ride this far," Carmichael said.

Carmichael said it's the latest in good fundraising news for the campaign, which she said has been raising "several hundred thousand a day" since Saturday.

Record traffic crashed the campaign's website several times, and the media requests have been flowing in steadily. On Monday alone, Cain was on NBC's Today show and three different Fox News programs, along with at least five radio shows. Later this week, he'll add CNN's The Situation Room and NBC's Tonight Show to the list.

Cain's been showing more confidence as he goes.

After months of campaigning without going after his GOP opponents, Cain's gone on the attack, slamming Perry's debate performance as "not up to prime time." He's also stepped up his confidence about performing against President Barack Obama, telling Fox's Greta Van Susteren on Monday night that he could attract "a minimum of a third of the black vote in the country," because black voters are "over the first African-American president thing."

He'll switch gears with the Oct. 4 release of his new book, This is Herman Cain!

Cain will be traveling for book-related events for at least five days ahead of the Oct. 11 debate in New Hampshire, according to a preliminary schedule posted on the website for his book.

He'll still be doing debate prep, but the book tour will largely put the brakes on his presidential campaign.

"The days he does anything related to the book, he can't do anything related to the campaign," Carmichael said.

But the campaign will continue: He's in the final days of fundraising, ahead of the deadline at the end of the week. And just before he kicks off the book tour, he'll meet with former Mayor Ed Koch and Donald Trump on a swing through New York, and in the weeks to come, he will be opening offices in several states that have moved their primaries earlier in the presidential nominating process.

When he's not promoting his new book, Cain will travel to Kansas City — where he previously served as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank — to speak at the National Federation of Republican Women's conference. Next week, he'll headline a dinner for the Family Foundation of Virginia in Richmond and speak at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.

Cain also has planned a bus tour through Tennessee, Carmichael said.

But despite those obvious challenges and the fact that most media reports are panning his double-digit victory as a protest vote, Cain's enjoying his moment at the top.

"It's a lot more fun to win," Cain told Van Susteren.

POLITICO and the St. Petersburg Times have partnered for the 2012 presidential election.

Herman Cain basking in the attention 09/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 4:43pm]
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