"In the week following the Dartmouth debate in Hanover, we got 1,000 telephone calls at the office," said Charlie Spano, Cain's New Hampshire director. "Many of whom were people that wanted to donate money, volunteer and the majority looking for additional information on platform positions."
Cain trails Romney by 27 points in the state, according to a recent CNN/Time poll, and Smith said it's too early to tell if the Godfather's Pizza magnate can compete.
South Carolina primary Jan. 21
South Carolina also appears primed as an opportunity for either Cain, who has recently been on a book tour in the south, or Perry. While the recent CNN/Time polls showed Cain within two percentage points of Romney, who leads the field with 25 percent, Perry hopes to appeal to his fellow southern conservatives. For Perry, it's close to a must win state because he's not likely to do well in New Hampshire and will need a strong performance to prove his viability.
The Cain campaign now has four paid staffers in the state with more hires anticipated, a local official said, adding that a bus tour for South Carolina is in the works.
A local GOP official reported that the South Carolina Republican office had received a significant increase in calls about Cain recently, but Clemson University political science professor David Woodard says support for all the candidates is soft right now because voters have not been tuning into the race yet.
"It appears to me that the electorate is open to appeal," he said. He added that Perry has hired the most people and has the most visible ground game at this stage, with Romney coming in second.
Florida primary Jan. 31
Florida GOP operatives say activity has ramped up for many of the campaigns, now that it appears the primary date has been set for Jan. 31.
Romney was staffed up early on and now has two regional offices. More recently, Cain announced a group of advisers locally.
But Brian Hughes, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, said the Sunshine state provides some real challenges the other early states don't, including costly television markets, a huge geographic area and a diverse Republican party.
"Whoever wins here is going to have the ability to say they had the organization and the resources and the campaign that could win in such a big, diverse state," he said. "There's no such thing as a proto-typical Florida Republican."
Cain's early straw poll victory in the state, which propelled his meteoric rise nationally, also isn't necessarily indicative of how the primary will play out, Hughes said. He said Cain worked every event "like a demon" and gave the concentrated audience a great speech.
"Not to diminish what he's done, but translating that into a primary victory on the 31st takes people and money," Hughes said.
Perry's campaign unveiled a list of 17 'county leaders' located in southeast Florida last week in an effort to expand his presence, which already includes at least one field office.
Nevada caucus Feb. 4
Capping off the early states is the Nevada caucus, which up until recently was a primary state. The change means it's hard to predict which voters will turn out and how effective different candidates will be at rallying support, one local GOP official said. He said campaigns for Romney, Cain, Paul, and Perry all had at least one paid staff member on the ground at this stage and observed that while support for Romney is the strongest, it's also soft and could shift with some effective television advertising.
Romney and Perry are clearly the men to beat when it comes to established ground games--their resources and hired hands are head and shoulders about the rest. But neither has been able to capture both the hearts and minds of a majority of Republican voters so the race remains open, especially now that Cain has recently stumbled in the media spotlight.