Kamala Kelkar | Herman Cain train smokes competition

Herman Cain train smokes competition

By: Kamala Kelkar

The “Herman Cain train” is so far out front right now, the former pizza executive is getting in his own way.

On the same day that a national poll ranked Cain as the most popular GOP presidential candidate, a new campaign ad on the Web was mercilessly ridiculed.

Described as “horrible” by more than a few analysts, the one-minute video peaks with a close shot of Cain’s gray-haired chief of staff Mark Block puffing on a cigarette with the song “I Am America” by Krista Branch playing in the background.

It then segues to a lingering shot of Cain, who slowly adopts a wide smile as the music plays on.

Block, wearing a worn suit and thick glasses and sporting a robust mustache, earlier in the ad says, “We need you to get involved because together we can do this. We can take this country back.”

The ad, posted on YouTube last week, caught the public’s attention, on the same day CBS News/New York Times released poll figures that puts Cain ahead of his main competitor Mitt Romney by four percentage points.

Now Cain is at 25 percent when earlier this month the two were tied at 17 percent.

A clean-shaven Block stopped by Fox News yesterday to defend the ad — and his on-camera smoking.

“There was no subliminal message,” he told anchor Megyn Kelly. “I would personally encourage people not to smoke.

“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.”

He also noted that “I’m not the only one that smokes in America, for God’s sake.”

But one public relations professional called the spot the “worst concept for political advertising in history” and believed it could sabotage Cain’s lead.

Sam Singer, of the firm Sam Singer and Associates, Inc., asked, “What’s the message? A mustachioed smoking man who says Herman Cain is going to change America?”

Singer added that if he were Cain, he would fire Block and demand an apology.

In the court of public opinion, the jury was still out.

One person on Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren’s blog wrote, “Never taken a drag in my whole 63 years on earth and I hate cigarette smoke, BUT I hate government intrusion on liberties even more. Therefore, I love this ad!!!”

Meanwhile, on the website of the left-leaning Mother Jones magazine, the video was posted under the header: “Herman Cain Officially Declares Himself a Joke.”

You be the judge.