Mark Block, Herman Cain's chief of staff who became a news-cycle celebrity with the drag of a cigarette in the presidential candidate's latest web ad, took to Fox News on Tuesday to provide a little background on the spot that has everyone talking.
"The message behind the ad was to our supporters that we're on a roll. We're excited about what's happening. There was no subliminal message," Block said. "In fact, I personally would encourage people not to smoke. It's just that I'm a smoker. A lot of the people on the staff said 'Just let Block be Block.' That's what it was all about. To tell people that the Cain message is resonating across America and whether it's 999 or whether it's the new opportunities zones roll-out in Detroit last week. The campaign is on a roll and the momentum is with us."
Herman Cain made sweeping changes to his 999 economic plan last week to allow the poorest Americans to be exempt from his proposed 9 percent income tax. He also fleshed out his proposed "opportunity zones," which would allow companies investing in such areas to be taxed at a lower rate.
On Tuesday, Block also rejected claims that the ad was intended to garner support from the smoking community, but he did seem to contend that his puff wouldn't hurt the campaign:
"I tell you, you walk into a veteran's bar in Iowa and they're sitting around smoking and you know we are resonating with them. I'm not the only one that smokes in America for God's sake," Block said. "It was a choice I made and it was at the end of the ad. The real message that we're trying to get through was the Cain train is on a roll."
Earlier on Tuesday, HuffPost's Jason Linkins broke down the latest theories on the Cain campaign's decision to have Block light up a cigarette so prominently:
Why do this? The Buffalo Beast's Ian Murphy speculates that Block, who "was, until recently, the Wisconsin State Director of Americans for Prosperity," is just giving a shout out to AFP's generous funders from the tobacco industry. Cain has also worked closely with cigarette manufacturers in the past. As the head of the National Restaurant Association, he lobbied against higher cigarette taxes and smoking bans in restaurants.
Watch the Cain campaign's enigmatic web video below: