“In a general election where most people don’t have jobs, and don’t have money, they aren’t going to go with the guy with several hundred million dollars. We think Herman is more electable! He’ll get African-American voters, he’ll get Latino voters. In a general election he will be more exciting and more electable.”
But the argument isn’t just electability. In an era where everyone from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street seems consumed with anger, Mr. Cain is giving those on Wall Street—and who can afford $1,000 fund-raisers—a voice to fight back with.
“Wall Street is very dissatisfied with constantly being attacked by people. There is the Occupy protest out there, and we are not happy with being goats,” said one Cainiac. “And some of want to have an opportunity to counter the arguments.”
Enter then, Herman Cain.
“His message is about economic opportunity, economic equality. His message is that this country was founded upon certain freedoms.”
But people don’t typically give thousands of dollars to a candidate, and convince their friends and colleagues to do the same, just because they happen to like a guy. Getting in early behind Mr. Cain allows these young, first-time-in-politics donors to get in on the ground floor. One member of the host committee expressed delight at being able to slip Mr. Block a note about Iran policy during Mr. Cain’s remarks.
“Who knows, maybe he will use it next time,” he said. Plus, they say, that even if Mr. Cain loses, he seems destined for a long career in politics, maybe as a cabinet secretary, or as a vice president, or maybe a run down the road.
“The word longshot has been used by many other presidential candidates who have gone on to win,” said Mr. Fensterstock. “I don’t believe Herman Cain is a longshot. He is a shooting star. He is beloved by people.”
And, like his brethren outside, he doesn’t think the most recent round of allegations are true, or will derail the campaign.
“I received some initial inquiries after the news first came out, but Herman Cain supporters are Herman Cain supporters,” he said. “I’ve known Mr. Cain for a quite a while and I know these allegations are totally baseless.”
Outside on the street, a young aide to Mr. Cain came out.
He lit a cigarette and said, “I am doing my best Mark Block impression.”
He told the reporters still waiting in the cold to call back their cameramen and their colleagues: Mr. Cain would be coming out soon.
Inside the Red Room of the Russian Tea Room, the sexual harassment allegations hardly came up at all. Mr. Block, in introducing Mr. Cain, said that despite all the brouhaha of the past 10 days, “Herman is doing great. His wife is 100 percent behind him.”
He said that if they were doing so poorly, how come they were raising close to $1 million a day?
“Other campaigns wish they were doing as badly as we are,” he said.
The mood in the room was charged with Cain love. He called on people by their first names. He talked 9-9-9. People present described him as “Clintonesque.” One man prefaced his question by saying, “Sir, I think you will be the next president.”
By the door, a horde of press had gathered, ready to pounce as soon as Mr. Cain exited. A Russian Tea Room doorman, dressed as a Beefeater, nervously looked on. Every few minutes the doors would swing open, dozens of flashbulbs would pop and an audible groan would be heard when it was determined to be just a paunchy white guy, or a 10-year-old girl on an outing with her mother, and not Herman Cain. Tourists had begun to congregate. The female Cainiacs stood guard, hoping still for a glimpse or a shouted word of encouragement.
Mr. Block came out and sat in Mr. Cain’s limo, smoking a cigarette. A beefy bodyguard with a Bluetooth followed and took his post, keeping the press away. A few moments later, he made a circular motion with his finger at someone unseen inside, a signal that all was ready to go for the candidate to make his appearance. Everyone was in a crouch. It was time.
A news photographer received word that Mr. Cain had snuck out the same way he had snuck in, through a back door. Heads were hung in disappointment, and the crowd dispersed. Reporters joked that if only the campaign were as nimble about messaging as it is about avoiding the press, maybe Herman Cain would still be in first place.
As for Ms. Lavars and her army of three, they checked out the Veterans Day parade nearby, got coffee and kept their sign-waving going on a windswept plaza in front of Club 101, where Mr. Cain held a fund-raiser that evening. Eventually, Mr. Block, aware that they had been waiting all day to see the candidate, let them inside for a private meeting.
“I said to him, ‘Herman, can I hug you, or are you afraid?” Ms. Lavars said out in front of the club, grinning from ear to ear. “We all started laughing and he gave a big hug. Wonderful man.”
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