ROCK HILL — Usually, only fat-cat donors have to pay money to shake hands with their favorite presidential candidate.
But on Sunday, nearly 200 voters from the Carolinas plunked down at least $26.75 — the cost of a book — to get a handshake, a smile and an autograph from surging GOP presidential contender Herman Cain.
And they all seemed happy to do it, with many buying several copies of "This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House."
Wearing campaign buttons that read "Raising Cain in '12" and "Yes We Cain," those in line at the Books-A-Million said the one-time CEO of Godfather's Pizza had the business background, the conservative credentials and the plain-spoken solutions that could turn a troubled America around.
"I came to shake hands with the next president of the United States," said Doc Hill, 70, a retired automotive worker from Rock Hill. "We need a businessman as president instead of a damn politician."
Dr. Dieter Voegele, a cardiac surgeon from Aiken, S.C., drove two hours with his wife, Desiree.
"I consider it a pilgrimage to meet a great man," said Voegele, 70. "He is what America is all about: You find your own way and then get ahead with your wits and hard work."
Cain, who arrived 90 minutes late in a big "This is Herman Cain!" bus, cast his book tour - he's also signing books in Florida, Texas, Virginia and Tennessee - as an untraditional, but marketing-savvy way to raise his name recognition with Republicans.
Including those likely to vote next January in South Carolina's usually pivotal primary - a contest he called "crit-i-cal," accentuating each syllable for emphasis.
"When I can meet (voters) at a book-signing and say hello to them, and they go home excited and they're talking with their friends and relatives, call them all across the country - it's called that intangible," Cain, 65, told reporters after the Rock Hill book signing.
"So, no, I don't apologize for these kinds of events at all, and I'm doing more of them as part of the campaign."
Cain, who has little political experience, doesn't appear as well-organized on the ground in early primary states as some other candidates. But the Cain campaign did open a South Carolina office in West Columbia last week.
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