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Guarding Mr. Cain

November 18, 2011 |  9:28 pm

Herman Cain's campaign now has the vigilance of the sunglasses-wearing guys who talk into their sleeves.

Since Thursday evening in New York, where the Republican presidential candidate and pizza mogul was taping an interview with David Letterman, he has been getting the Secret Service protection his campaign asked for, the first GOP candidate in this election cycle to get that protection.

Why? There's an obvious answer and a not-so-obvious answer. The obvious answer is, as reported in several places, Cain has received threats. And according to the Secret Service website, major candidates and their spouses -– as defined by the secretary of Homeland Security -- can get protection within four months of the general presidential election. And Janet Napolitano did approve starting protection for Cain now, more than 11 months before the election

Cain's own explanation was that it's "because of the popularity of my campaign."

But the Washington Post had written that it's the presence of the news media in greater numbers -- there to record every word, including the gaffes -- that prompted the request.

The Post quoted Cain's spokesman, J.D. Gordon, as saying that Cain "draws anywhere from a dozen to 50 media at his events. When he gets out at a rally or a campaign stop, it has been increasingly common for media to be physically putting themselves and others in danger by trying to follow him with a lot of heavy equipment and cameras in close quarters like we saw yesterday.''

A day later, Gordon was strolling that back: "It has nothing to do with the media, it has nothing to do with reporters."

''A dozen to 50"? That's not only not even close to a Sarah Palin media scrum, it's nowhere close to a big Hollywood turnout.

If it's protection from the cameras the Cain campaign wants, it should be consulting Lindsay Lohan, not the Secret Service.

Under the heading of "be careful what you wish for, it might come true," the Cain campaign will find that the Secret Service is far better and immeasurably more experienced at dealing with the media than the private security guards the Cain campaign has been using. And -- in my experience of covering these campaigns –- that could mean that reporters may get more and more orderly access to the candidate, not less.

No, if it's insulation from the media that Cain wants, he'll have to "go Hollywood" for the professionals at the elbow of every A-list, and even some B- and C-list celebs -- men who can block better than the Vikings' Steve Hutchinson, and without helmets or shoulder pads.

But if it's protection from his own fumbles that Cain really needs, 100 Secret Service agents can't do a thing. Cain will have to guard himself.


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Photo: Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain talks to reporters this week in Green Bay, Wis. Credit: Mike Roemer / Associated Press

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