Quite a few Republicans, it seems, were yearning for a hug from a candidate, not with a long resume in government, but without the sort of Washington experience that they see at the root of the country's problems.
"Look at what just happened!" Tubbs gushed after her Cain embrace. "This guy's a real person. He's not a politician, and that's very important to me. But he's got the economic experience, and he says it like it is."
Establishment Republicans, who initially dismissed Cain's candidacy as a pipe dream, were jolted to attention last month, when Cain trounced Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the Florida GOP straw poll, 37 percent to 15 percent. In the last two weeks, he has placed either second or tied front-runner Mitt Romney in national polls, and he has attracted up to 1,000 people at this book-signings.
In a political climate driven largely by the tea party movement that once propelled Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to the front of the pack, Cain's arrival in the top tier shouldn't be shocking.
Last week, a Gallup poll showed that a record-high 81 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed. Florida straw poll participant Bonnie Benefield, of Gainesville, said she had just cast her vote for Cain for the same reason critics originally laughed him off.
"I think he's exactly who the founding fathers had in mind when they set up the office of the president," Benefield said. "He's a businessman; he's not a career politician. He understands what it's like to grow up in the U.S., and he understands what it's like to do business in America."
It's a line Cain himself uses to his advantage. In an interview with National Journal and CBS News last week, he said that he is "the only business problem-solver that's running for president of the United States.
"Now Mitt Romney tries to say that that's him," Cain said. "But see, he was a Wall Street executive. I was a Main Street executive. I've actually made pizzas, made hamburgers, cleaned restaurants, swept the parking lot, OK? I've done all that. I have been a hands-on business executive throughout my career, so I can better connect with people who are working for hourly wages. I can relate to the small businessman. Why? I have been one, and I'm still one."
His description of himself as a newcomer to politics is one of his best applause lines on the stump. At a Houston Junior League breakfast on Thursday, the crowd spontaneously burst into applause when Cain mentioned that he's never held public office. At one point, he told the crowd that he wasn't born "poor," he was born, "po'" - "We had to work our way up to poor," he said.
Later that day, Cain's book-signing event at Texas A&M University in College Station, Perry's alma mater, sold out, and drew 1,000 supporters.
Bobby Tyson, a 23-year-old from The Woodlands in Texas, said he was initially "excited" when Perry entered the race, but is now supporting Cain. "In terms of establishing a relationship with the tea party movement, I think that people really can relate to the fact that he's just an ordinary guy who's worked his way up from very humble beginnings," said Tyson, who added that he thinks the timing is right for a non-politician to chance a White House run.