ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and Gregory Simmons report:
The surge is on – and this time, it’s Herman Cain. Since his stunning victory in the Florida straw poll three weeks ago, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza has captured the attention of the Republican Party, his opponents and yes, even his opponents’ wives.
“When I hear 9-9-9, I want to call 9-1-1,” said Anita Perry, wife of Gov. Rick Perry, referring to Cain’s now-famous economic plan, ”because it will raise the taxes.”
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Cain leading the field, effectively tied with Mitt Romney.
As Cain assumed his new position among the top-tier candidates at Tuesday night’s debate, his opponents seized upon the moment to assault him and his 9-9-9 plan from nearly every angle. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., at one point quipped that ”the devil is in the details,” if 9-9-9 is examined and turned over.
Others in the Republican Party, however, are praising Cain’s plan. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, for example, said he loves Cain’s 9-9-9 economic plan. And Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour predicted Cain would sweep the South against Obama.
Cain is catching fire in the private sector, as well. In a sure sign of the times, Spirit Airlines, in nod to Cain, has launched its own “9-9-9″ advertising campaign.
For all the buzz around Cain, there are real questions about whether he can turn all the momentum into a winning campaign. Recently, Cain has been largely absent from early primary states.
ABC News dropped by Cain’s Iowa headquarters Thursday and found the place nearly deserted. The GOP hopeful hasn’t even been to the first caucus state since the Ames Straw Poll back in mid-August.
“We’re trying hard to get Mr. Cain here in October, and hopefully we’ll be able to achieve that,” Larry Tuel, Iowa director of the Cain Campaign, told ABC News.
Despite his non-traditional campaign strategy, Cain continues to rise and said his surge won’t be short-lived.
“There is a difference between flavor of the week and Haagen Dazs black walnut, because it tastes good all the time,” Cain said. “Call me Haagen Dazs black walnut.”
That black walnut ice cream may indeed be tasty, but Cain may be disappointed the next time he goes out for ice cream: Haagan Dazs stopped selling black walnut two years ago.