Herman Cain loses two top staffers

Rachel Rose Hartman

Early campaign implosions aren't just for Newt Gingrich anymore.

Republican Herman Cain lost two top staffers in the past several days, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports. Matt Murphy, who ran the New Hampshire operation for Cain, told the newspaper that he resigned over how the campaign planned to invest in New Hampshire.

"There was definitely some strategic differences as far as the importance and priority that New Hampshire should have in the campaign," Murphy told the Union Leader.

The Cain campaign also lost regional field director Jim Zeiler, who resigned, the paper reports.

Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, said on CNN Tuesday that Murphy's assessment was off base.

"That assessment is incorrect. I am very heavily committed to New Hampshire," Cain said. "I have been to New Hampshire about 14 times since the beginning of the year. It's unfortunate that Matt did leave . . . but he left for personal reasons." Cain said it was a mischaracterization to say Murphy wanted more money to hire New Hampshire staff.

Not surprisingly, Cain's campaign is seeking to downplay the staff exits, telling the press they have already recruited an as-yet-unnamed replacement for Murphy and other staff members.

You can watch Cain's interview below via CNN:

Though the departure of two staffers hardly puts Cain's losses on par with Gingrich's mass staff exodus, it does raise questions about Cain's activity in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire has traditionally been a primary state focused intensively on "retail politics"--where knocking on doors and attending town hall meetings can carry more weight than money and national name recognition. By these lights, the state would have to be all the more crucial for an underdog such as Cain. A strong showing in New Hampshire can provide much-needed momentum at the start of the 2012 season.

Murphy said he asked the campaign to devote more resources to building Cain's presence in New Hampshire, but was denied.

Cain, who has never before held public office, remains virtually unknown to many Americans. But the businessman has been steadily building popularity among conservatives and the tea party faithful, who favor his conservative platform and enjoy his candor and wit on the stump.

He made a surprising third-place showing in the recent Des Moines Register poll of Iowa Republicans who will be participating in their state's first-in-the-nation caucus next February. He was the only Republican to receive double-digit support--10 percent--in addition to frontrunners former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romey, who received 23 percent and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who received 22 percent.

(Photo of Cain: David Goldman/AP)

Other popular Yahoo! News stories:

Out of work for a while? Tell us your story
Americans regaining confidence (slightly) in newspapers and TV news
Gabrielle Giffords makes public appearance