Why should a book signing in Tennessee—an event, where Cain is presenting himself to potential voters—be any less meaningful than a campaign stop where he presents himself to potential voters in a coffee shop in rural Iowa? Why is Rick Perry, who appears in Iowa, but tends to avoid national press (at least those elements of it more critical than Fox and Parade magazine) any more “serious” than Cain, who has frequently taken the national stage, but appeared less in Iowa. Especially in 2011—when Cain can present himself to voters on the web, via Twitter, or on around-the-clock-cable—does it really matter?

Cain has us assured he’s serious, and provided a reasonable explanation of what he is up to and why:

Per Saluny:

When asked why he would launch a book tour while running for the presidential nomination, Mr. Cain said that “the two complement one another” and that the benefits go beyond raising his name recognition among voters—one of his main goals.

And one could argue that Cain has in fact been campaigning for years—building his brand through a radio show, a syndicated political column, his books, and speeches on the Koch brother circuit and his catchy if flawed 9-9-9 plan.

If anything, Cain’s tactics seem shrewd and far more fitting for these times than the frontloaded, retail politics model the media seems to be demanding of him—and which, incidentally have not served its strictest practitioners Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and John Huntsman (in New Hampshire) particularly well.

Meanwhile, as dismissive as the media has been of Cain’s early state strategy, his campaign does not appear to be suffering. He’s sitting pretty atop polls in Iowa and, according to The Des Moines Register, is of growing interest in the state. His buzz is also boosting his fundraising, which will allow him to hire more staffers and build his organization.

Whether this is enough to win the nomination is an open question. But the media should at least allow that Cain may just be playing it another way.

Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.