Written by: Joe Hallett
Posted: Sunday, July 3, 2011 – 3:00 AM
From running a pizza chain to now wanting to run the country, Herman Cain says he is undaunted by the prospect because he is an experienced problem-solver.
“If you understand how to solve problems, the principles of success are the same no matter what kind of enterprise you run,” Cain said in an interview.
The 65-year-old former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza showed up at the We the People Convention in Columbus yesterday, the only Republican presidential candidate on hand, and earned plenty of good will for his candidacy among the tea party and Patriot groups he has assiduously courted.
Cain, an African-American conservative once viewed as a going-nowhere protest candidate, has caught fire in a GOP field of mostly lifetime politicians, consistently running third in recent polls behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
“He’s not likely to win, but boy, is he shaking things up,” said John Fund, conservative columnist for The Wall Street Journal and the lunchtime speaker yesterday at the gathering, held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
“I think Herman Cain has really energized the tea party because he says, ‘I know you’re not racists. I spend all my time with you; I know you’re not racists.'”
About 1,000 members of tea party and Patriot organizations attended the convention, and Cain, who has fashioned himself as a fiscal conservative, was right at home. He delivered last night’s keynote address, his first appearance in Ohio as a presidential candidate.
Although the General Assembly just moved Ohio’s presidential primary from March to May of 2012, Cain said he expects to still be standing if the GOP presidential nomination fight continues that long. Currently, there are eight declared candidates seeking the nomination to run against President Barack Obama.
“I think ultimately, it’s going to come down to Romney, Bachmann and Cain,” he told The Dispatch, adding that his campaign raised more than $2million over just a few weeks and “we have zero debt.”
Cain brushed aside a growing movement for Texas Gov. Rick Perry to join the Republican field: “I don’t worry about people that the media’s trying to suck into the campaign,” he said.
Although his focus has been on the conservative GOP base, Cain said he does not have “a segmentation strategy” and is confident he can appeal to the broader electorate in Ohio, regarded as a must-win swing state.
“If you tell people the truth and you share realistic ideas about how you’re going to solve problems, it transcends one voter segment against another segment,” Cain said.
Despite his surge in the polls, Cain has encountered organizational problems, including the resignation of his campaign manager in New Hampshire. Yesterday, Cain’s top two campaign staff members in Iowa quit, one saying she was dissatisfied with Cain’s effort in that first-primary-vote-in-the-nation state.
Also, Cain, a Baptist, has been nagged by controversy over comments he made when asked whether he would consider appointing a Muslim to his cabinet.
Asked by The Dispatch to clarify, Cain said: “The reason I said I was uncomfortable is you’ve got some Muslims who want to kill us, (and) you’ve got some who want to infuse Shariah law in this nation. So, for those two reasons, I said, ‘No, I’m not comfortable,’ but it did not shut the door permanently on that idea.”
Participants at the We the People Convention who were interviewed spoke favorably of Cain, but most said they had not decided which presidential candidate to support.
However, Jorjann Alexander-Chezem, 49, of Loveland, near Cincinnati, was not on the fence. A Cain supporter, she was disappointed when he canceled on a panel discussion on the role of the Federal Reserve.
“I will vote for him if he’s on the ballot because he wants to have a better future for our country,” Alexander-Chezem said.
But a woman she attempted to coax to the Cain side, 69-year-old Ruth Tarleton of Caldwell, was
holding out for another candidate: “My favorite hasn’t declared yet – Sarah Palin.”
Jeanne Moson, 62, a retired nurse from Medina, said she is leaning toward Cain after watching him debate the other GOP candidates on CNN: “I do feel like we’ll get the truth from him. And common sense.”
Susan Pisegna, 52, of Warren, expressed sentiments heard from others at the convention when asked her choice for president.
“I don’t care whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat, I want somebody who will uphold our Constitution, stop taking our liberties away, less taxes and less spending, and to get back to the basics,” Pisegna said.
Read More: Dispatch.com