Despite his lack of name ID, Herman Cain has attracted an increasingly visible following during the past few weeks as he has ramped up his campaign in the early primary states. During an interview with the NH Journal, Cain reports that he is “very pleased with how the support is evolving here in New Hampshire.” We couldn’t hope to capture Cain’s enthusiasm as well as he does himself, so take a look at what he has to say about the reception he’s been getting:
Cain acknowledges that the mainstream media often seems to overlook his candidacy to focusing on better-known candidates, but cites this dynamic as yet another example of how out of touch the beltway elites are with the grassroots voters he’s been appealing to. “I take the message of business skills, problem solving skills, and my business experience to the real people out there, and they like that,” he says, “They like the fact that I have not learned how Washington works, because my job would be to change Washington, D.C.”
Touting an impressive business background as Chairman of the Board of Kansas City’s Federal Reserve Bank, CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, and numerous other private sector leadership positions, Cain described his economic stimulus plan. The first phase of the plan involves lowering both corporate and personal tax rates to a maximum of 25 percent, eliminating the capital gains tax completely, and enacting a payroll tax holiday of 6.2 percent for both employers and employees. Cain explains his move to slash the capital gains tax, saying, “Let those foreign repatriated profits come back here unencumbered by taxes. It’s a no brainer- its low hanging fruit!” Phase two of Cain’s plan is to replace the current tax code with the ‘Fair Tax’ – a national sales tax. “That [fair tax] would supercharge our economy. We would become one of the most business friendly countries in the world.”
Cain has the same ‘repeal and replace’ approach to health care reform, supporting the repeal of ‘ObamaCare’ and the adoption of a more “patient centered and market driven” plan. He believes that providing tax deductions for individuals that buy private health insurance would both lower costs and increase accessibility. Cain explained, “The only way we can change this paradigm, is to create the mechanism such that people see it as their money.”
In 2008, Cain went on record as supportive of the TARP bailouts, and was quoted as saying, “Owning a part of the major banks in America is not a bad thing. We could make a profit while solving a problem.” He has not tried to walk back his position on the campaign trail or during our interview, but he did seek to clarify his stance. “I was supportive of the concept of TARP, not the implementation of TARP,” he said, going on to elaborate that had he been in the White House to oversee implementation he would have allowed companies like General Motors to go through the normal bankruptcy process, which allows unions to renegotiate contracts organically. “It is not the administration’s responsibility to pick winners and losers, and that includes picking union workers over non-union workers or picking union shops over non-union shops.”
When the conversation turns to foreign policy, Cain does something not often seen on the presidential campaign trail; he admits that his knowledge on the subject has limitations, and states that he needs to gather more information before committing to certain positions. “I need more information about things I don’t know before I present the American people with what we do in Afghanistan,” he says, “Do I want us to get out of Afghanistan? Yes. The question is how and when.” He explains that he does not support an “open-ended continued involvement in Afghanistan,” or the commitment of ground troops in Libya, Syria or Tunisia without a clear strategy. “We are not clear what the mission is,” he explains, “It is difficult to generalize when we don’t know what the mission is, we do not know how to define victory”
Although Cain has growing support in the polls, he acknowledges that he faces a strong competitor in former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the projected frontrunner in the first-in-the-nation primary who boasts similar business expertise. Cain differentiates his experience in the private sector from Romney’s: “I have actually taken a company that was about to go bankrupt and kept it from going bankrupt. I have taken a troubled business when I was at Burger King, turned it from the worst performing into the best performing.” The key difference in Cain’s mind is that Romney’s experience is at the enterprise level, while Cain’s is at the small business level, and the difference in scale brings a difference in skills.
“Now, as far as catching governor Romney in New Hampshire as well as other places, we are going to keep doing what we are doing and that is keep our grassroots, boots-on-the-ground followers relative to this campaign,” says Cain, “and we have had a lot of success quite frankly, because I have spent a lot of time here and I plan to spend a lot more time.”
Amelia Chassé and Amanda Markell contributed to this report.