What Cain Needs to Do If He Really Wants to Be President

Herman Cain survived the latest GOP debate Tuesday night. He was got a little knocked off his heels by his rivals at the CNN/Western Republican Presidential debate in Nevada but he definitely was not knocked out of the race.

So now comes the big question: with virtually all the national polls showing Herman Cain tied or leading the Republican primary race, the question becomes what does he need to do if he really wants to become president?

And there is a simple answer-- he needs to get himself to Iowa.

If you look back at Barack Obama's successful strategy in 2008 election, he was able to out-organize and out-campaign Hillary Clinton in Iowa-- a victory that catapulted him to not only national prominence, but national credibility, and ultimately to victory in that year's presidential election.

With Herman Cain being somewhere between a national laughing stock to some in the liberal media and a hugely misunderstood phenomena to others, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO has a chance to stand the elites on their heads by demonstrating a commitment to campaigning that he, here to fore, has not shown. That means getting himself to Iowa, campaigning community to community, neighborhood to neighborhood, building a grassroots organization of the type that has yet to be built in the state and the Republican side.

Mitt Romney has little, if any, support beyond the quarter of the electorate in the state that is already backing him.

A recent poll shows Cain with an 8 point lead in Iowa, but absent the kind of grassroots organizing I am suggesting, that lead could well evaporate. With 62% of Iowa Republicans being evangelical protestants who are supportive of the Tea Party movement, there is every reason to believe that the Cain message will resonate, and resonate well in the state.

That being said, if Cain is able to take advantage of the early caucuses in Iowa, now scheduled for January 3, he will be able to go in short order to Nevada (should he choose to compete there), South Carolina, Florida, and of course New Hampshire.

There is every reason to believe that if he wins Iowa, his support in New Hampshire, which is now about 20%, would almost double, and Romney's, which is 40%, would invariably shrink. And if that happened, Cain could in fact become the nominee.

Cain benefits from the fact that the national media still doesn't take him seriously. The last time I wrote about him, people asked whether I had lost my mind-- I clearly haven't.

And on Tuesday morning, on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," David Axelrod and Joe Scarborough took turns mocking Cain for being a CEO of a pizza company, with Axelrod waxing philosophic about the oil on John's pizza here in New York.

These type of snide and frankly ridiculous asides only serve to embolden an electorate that is sick and tired of an elite national media telling them who and in what circumstances their nominees should be chosen.

This is not to say that what happened on "Morning Joe" Tuesday is necessarily unique or outrageous. It was just typical of the media that believes that anyone who is not part of the elite, inside the Beltway, Washington establishment, is not believable, credible or serious.

My friend and colleague, Pat Caddell, probably one of the most brilliant minds in American politics, made it clear that what Herman Cain has to do to be elected president is unite the two wings of frustrated America -- those who are on the right and want smaller government, and those on the left who are angry about intrusive government bailing out the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor.

An anti-systemic figure like Cain has the capacity to do it, but he needs to focus on the campaign, rather than selling books, and he needs to get himself to Iowa and run a real political campaign in a grassroots fashion. If he does that, he can change the world.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.