Herman Cain works to keep Florida poll bump from turning into a bust

Businessman Herman Cain is enjoying the spoils of Saturday’s upset victory in the Florida straw poll, riding the momentum to increased media exposure — and more fundraising dollars.

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO won the poll with 37 percent of the more than 2,600 votes cast — more than double any other candidate, including presumptive front-runner Rick Perry, who devoted substantial resources to the contest.

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For Cain’s part, he sees the victory as validation of his message — and his perception of the media as too absorbed with anointing Perry, the governor of Texas, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination.

“Look, the voice of the people is more powerful than the voice of the media. The message is more important than money,” Cain said in an interview Monday on NBC’s “Today” show.

Cain might be able to parlay the Florida victory into both more media exposure and more money. 

The candidate spent Monday doing a wave of press — in addition to the “Today” show interview, he appeared twice on CNN, once on Fox and on four nationally syndicated conservative radio shows. Influential conservative author Ann Coulter tweeted in support of his candidacy. 

On Dennis Miller’s program, the host pledged to Cain that not only would he make a financial contribution to the campaign, he would also headline a fundraiser in Los Angeles. The campaign’s donation website nearly crashed Monday morning from a traffic overload; Cain said on Fox News that traffic was 10 times previous levels.

“Our fundraising in the past week is the best we’ve ever had, even better than the week of our announcement,” said campaign spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael. “He had a day full of media already, and he has tons more scheduled this week.”

Cain also scheduled a sit-down in early October with business mogul Donald Trump, whose flirtation with a presidential run has landed him solidly in the middle of the Republican primary process. So far, Trump has only met with presumptive front-runners Romney and Perry, along with still-undecided former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

For Cain, it’s a twofold challenge — first, to paint his victory as one of genuine support, rather than simply a rebuke of Perry’s shaky debate performance, and second, to maintain momentum after the contest, rather than fading like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) after her Iowa straw poll victory.

Cain set out to accomplish the former early on Monday, insisting that the vote was a reflection of his connection with Florida voters and not simply a repudiation of Perry.

“It’s not a protest vote,” Cain said.

As for sustaining his momentum, Cain plans to continue bringing his message to the people — on his terms. He credited his Florida victory partially to just getting on a bus and traveling the state to speak openly with activists. Monday saw the candidate denouncing actor Morgan Freeman’s criticism of the Tea Party as having racist undertones, decrying the president as a “liar” with a “bulls--t” economic message and, to the consternation of some Republicans, urging Congress to fund FEMA disaster relief before worrying about budget offsets.

“The thing that differs me from a lot of other people running for the president of the United States is that I focus on the problem first. Then I focus on what the solution is,” Cain said.

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