“I am in it to win. I am not in it to come in second,” Herman Cain said of his bid for the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination. He also set a bar for his finish in the August 13th Straw Poll. “I do believe I need to finish in the top three,” Cain said today in Des Moines.
The Greater Des Moines Partnership and IowaPolitics.com hosted a forum at the State Historical Building today featuring GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain. The last time these groups had a presidential candidate in this space, the event was cut short because someone elsewhere in the building burned a bag of popcorn in a microwave, triggering the building’s fire alarms. Mitt Romney told the crowd back on May 27 that he was “fully committed to Iowa” before he fully committed to a “safety first” strategy to lead an evacuate the building when the fire alarms sounded. We on press row were told there’s a “no popcorn” order in the building today.
Cain was about half an hour late to today’s event. A crowd of about 40 people were here waiting, far fewer than were here for Romney’s appearance.
“This marks my 25th time in Iowa…I just don’t have a condo yet,” Cain said to open his remarks. “What distinguishes Herman Cain?….First, common sense solutions…The second thing…is the fact that I am a career problem-solver, not a career politician.”
He shifts directly to the economy.
“The business sector is the engine of economic growth and, in order to grow the ecoomy, we have to put more fuel in the engine, not more stuff in the caboose,” Cain said. Health care reform, government regulations and the economic stimulus were “stuff in the caboose” according to Cain.
Cain’s analysis of the economy is that it’s “not just anemic, it’s pathetic.”
Cain outlined the elements of his plan for the economy: lower the top corporate and personal tax rates to 25 percent maximum; suspend all taxes on repatriated foreign profits; take cap gains tax to zero; make the Bush era tax rates permanent.
“Uncertainty is killing this economy,” Cain said. ”…It has caused businesses to not want to grow or invest…so if we make those things certain, I am confident…it would put some fuel in the engine of this economy.”
Cain suggested he’d rely upon the public to pressure congress to pass his agenda. “My job as president is to tee up common sense ideas that the public can understand and the public will be the heat to convince congress,” he said.
First question was about the debt deal. Cain said his solution would have been not to allow the crisis to exist. “This is what business people do. You don’t wait until the crisis happens,” Cain said. Cain suggested a year ago he would have started stock-piling federal tax revenues to pay debts, pay the military, pay Social Security and disability benefits, pay Medicare and Medicaid – ”and then everything else is on the table.”
Cain was critical of the final solution (on the debt deal). ”What they agreed to really doesn’t solve the problem. All it does is reduce the growth in the rate of spending…Until we restructure these programs…it’s going to just continue,” Cain said.
Cain said he favors totally replacing the current tax code with the Fair Tax. “We spend, collectively, $430 billion a year just complying with the tax code,” Cain said. “What an absolute waste of money.”
Cain’s voice rose as he castigated President Obama’s handling of the economy. “He’s not going to do anything differntly than he’s done before. I just find it very upsetting…how we continue to hear lip service from this president. He has promised jobs were going to be a priority at least six times,” Cain said. “….The only thing I can say to small business people is: ‘Hold on,’ because this economy is not going to get any better with smoke and mirrors.”
Cain was asked to address the turn-over on his campaign. “I am in it to win. I am not in it to come in second,” Cain said of his bid for the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination.
He also set a bar for his finish in the August 13th Straw Poll. “I do believe I need to finish in the top three,” Cain said.
Cain was asked if Iowans can relate to him. He said they did ”because I eat a lot of pork and a lot of beef.” After that joke, Cain said: “Iowans…relate to common sense ideas. They relate to plain talk.”
Cain was asked about a controversial statement about immigration control (and having ‘gators along the southern border to deter illegal immigrants). “America’s got to have a sense of humor. I was just kidding,” he said.
Cain said it was time to gradually phase out the ethanol subsidy and he repeated his call for reform of “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare. Cain said he’d support “limited means testing for a limited period of time.”
When asked about farm policy in general, Cain criticized the idea of requiring licenses for farm machinery. “This administration is using the regulatory system to…sneak taxes on businesses in this country and this is why we’ve got to change…the person in the White House,” Cain said.
Cain was asked about racism. “I don’t believe race is going to a factor” Cain said of the 2012 race. He said a ”small thimble full of people” would vote based on race, but the “majority” won’t according to Cain.
Cain got to final remarks for the hour-long event. He told the crowd America is at a cross-roads which could determine whether America “become a third-world country.”
Cain answered questions from reporters. I asked what would happen if he doesn’t finish first, second or third @ the Straw Poll. “We”re not going to stop.” Cain said. “That’s just the desired place where we would like to finish and that is in the top three. If we finish fourth or fifth, we are going to evaluate that to determine what the implications are, so it’s not the end of the road, it’s just going to be a harder analysis to do to decide if we would go forward.”
He was asked about the Dow’s drop today. When the reporter said how deep the drop was, the crowd gasped. Cain suggested the drop was “the market’s reaction to the debt deal which didn’t solve te problem of reducing the debt…It also shows the nervousness of some investors.” Cain said people are nervous about the “automatic triggers” in the deal, as well as the super committee that will meet to come up with more cuts.
Audio of Cain’s Q&A with reporters.