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Can Herman Cain actually win the GOP nomination?

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“The volunteer phone bank was brisk,” said Grubbs. “That’s what I wanted to see. That’s a bit of a change.”

In July, Cain’s top staffers in Iowa resigned, citing a lack of attention by Cain to the state. Grubbs’s appointment as Iowa chairman, announced last Thursday, signaled a renewed commitment by Cain to Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest on Jan. 3. Grubbs says the campaign’s goal is to appoint precinct captains to 80 percent of the state’s 1,800 precincts by Dec. 1.

“So far, we’re exceeding our goals,” says Grubbs, who is unpaid. Cain has four paid staffers in Iowa, he says.

The name of the game in Iowa is organization. Unlike a primary, which involves only voting, an Iowa GOP caucus entails speeches, casting of ballots, party fundraising, and other party business. To do well, a campaign needs to engage in major voter outreach to get supporters to show up on a cold winter night, and devote a fair amount of time. Voter passion matters, but it will take a candidate only so far.

Iowa’s caucuses are only 10 weeks away, and Cain is getting a late start. Still, he’s strong in the polls. The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls in Iowa shows Cain leading among likely Republican caucus-goers with 28 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 23 percent. The latest poll, by CNN, has Cain at 21 and Mr. Romney at 24. If Cain can do well in Iowa, that could open the floodgates of donations and set him up to be a serious contender.

“He has to win Iowa; I think that’s the real key,” says Ford O’Connell, chairman of the conservative Civic Forum PAC. “Should he win Iowa, people will show him how to build a national organization.”

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