Businessman Herman Cain says that running for president has been the toughest thing he's ever done, but Tuesday's debate could be his greatest hurdle yet in the campaign.
For the first time this election cycle, Cain is near the top of the polls. A national Gallup survey released Monday night placed Cain in a statistical tie with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, leapfrogging him over Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Cain was only polling 5 percent support when the survey was taken last month. Now he's nearing 20 percent.
With his newly minted top tier status, Cain will no longer be delegated to stand near the wings of the stage. At Tuesday night's Washington Post/Bloomberg debate, he'll stand in the center, next to Romney in Perry's old spot. And with his new positioning, he'll receive tougher questions from the debate moderator and more attention from the press after the contest.
But, as Cain has noticed, that's where the perks end. Now that he's near the top, everything he says (and has said in the past) will be dissected and analyzed.
At the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. last Friday, Cain discussed what it was like transitioning from his earlier status a candidate that everyone wrote off as a "me too" to joining the top tier.
"You get this bull's eye on your back," Cain said. "And people take pot shots left and right."
Despite the upgrade, Cain's campaign strategists insist they're not planning to do anything different.
"Mr. Cain's debate strategy is just to be Mr. Cain," Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told The Ticket. "It's been working out well for him."
Aside from increased media scrutiny, Cain has remained largely immune from attacks from the other candidates throughout the campaign. In fact, most have had nothing but nice things to say about the former Godfather's Pizza CEO, perhaps because they haven't perceived him as a threat.
That will probably end tonight.
Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, was the first to go after Cain this week, slamming him in a radio ad set to air in Iowa for supporting Wall Street bailouts.
"I thought the Wall Street bailouts were a terrible idea, while Herman Cain supports the bailouts," Santorum says in the ad.
The debate begins Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. The Ticket will be there with live updates and analysis.
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