Herman Cain has gone from being an afterthought, a long shot, a candidate who might surprise people by doing well in Iowa, to becoming a real presidential contender in just a matter of months. The only question that remains is whether or not Cain is an overnight sensation who’s currently enjoying his fifteen minutes in the spotlight, or if he is the real deal.
Yesterday, Cain participated in The FAMiLY Leader’s presidential lecture series. Cain proved in Pella that he is the real deal, while the audience confirmed that his recent strong showing in the polls is also no fluke. Cain was the fifth presidential candidate to take part in the series. He attracted 100 attendees to the Pella stop. The crowd was twice as big as last month’s event, which featured Rick Santorum. Cain’s speech was very well received, as has been the case throughout his campaign. He was interrupted by applause a dozen times and received a standing ovation at the conclusion of the event.
Compared to most of the other FAMiLY Leader events in Pella, Cain seemed to attract the most unique crowd. New faces turned out to the event, all to hear the straight-talking businessman from Georgia. Instead of pandering to the organization that was hosting the event, Cain pretty much delivered his standard campaign speech. In doing so, he stuck to who he is, an articulate, smart, funny, and charismatic speaker. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand. The response he garnered at yesterday’s event was far greater than any other candidate has received at the same event to date.
As Cain rises in the polls, voters and the media are paying more attention to his past statements. One question mark on Cain’s resume is his support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008. TARP was the government’s effort to purchase assets and equity from financial institutions to prevent a complete financial collapse. It remains a controversial issue, especially with conservative voters.
The measure passed the Senate 74-25, and the House 263-171. George W. Bush signed the bill on October 20th, 2008. Cain wrote an op-ed that day in favor of TARP. The Georgia businessman was asked about TARP as he participated in The Family Leader’s “Presidential Lecture Series” in Pella on Monday.
“I studied the financial meltdown first,” Cain said. “I knew the severity of it and I knew we needed to do something drastic. When TARP was explained how it was going to be administered, equally and fairly to all banks, I said, ‘It’s worth a try.’ They didn’t do it that way.”
Cain then explained his opposition to the way TARP was handled. “They were discretionary. Big banks got favored. They used some of the money for General Motors and other purposes. That wasn’t what we expected. They even forced money on some banks that didn’t want it. And then when some of the banks wanted to pay the money back, the administration said, ‘Nope. You can’t pay it back.’ Now why is that? It was the first step in trying to nationalize the banking system. So, I did not agree with the way it was administered, although I did agree that we needed to do something very, very drastic.”
Cain’s explanation received applause from the Pella crowd. Cain is not the only presidential candidate, or potential candidate, who supported TARP at the time. In fact, the field is split on the issue. Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Jon Huntsman felt the bailouts were necessary. Newt Gingrich endorsed the program while addressing questions at an American Future Fund event in Davenport last summer.
House members Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul voted against TARP. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum was not in office in 2008, but has railed against it when asked about it in Iowa. Tim Pawlenty has sent mixed signals on the issue. Whether or not it will be a hot topic on the campaign trail remains to be seen, but it does look like TARP could be one of a few separator issues in the crowded GOP field.
While Cain excelled during the lecture portion of the event, the question and answer segment proved to be a little more difficult for him. When TheIowaRepublican.com asked if he supported the ethanol industry, Cain acknowledged that ethanol helps American become more energy independent. When pressed further if he supports the blenders tax credit, Cain said he couldn’t answer because he didn’t know the specifics about the issue.
There were other instances when Cain admitted that he didn’t know enough about a subject to answer a question. He first took this position when questioned about foreign policy a few weeks ago. He has also backed off of his support of the gold standard recently. Cain now says that we need to reduce the nation’s debt to strengthen the dollar. He admitted that getting back to the gold standard might be impossible.
Cain, who barely mentioned social issues during his remarks, was asked about social issues including the Biblical purpose for government. “The Biblical purpose for government is to punish the evil and encourage the good,” Cain said. “I didn’t say, ‘Do good’. Encourage good. When you lower tax rates on families, you’re encouraging good.”
Cain’s answers to those questions were solid but vague. While other candidates who have participated in the event have gone out of their way to prove their social conservative qualifications, Cain seemed content in providing very basic answers.
During the press conference that followed the event, a member of the media asked Cain if he would hire an openly gay person in his administration. Cain was asked the question because in March he told reporters that he would not hire a Muslim.
Cain told reporters, “I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all. I just want people who–I want qualified. I want them to basically believe in the Constitution of the United States of America, so yep, I don’t have a problem with appointing an openly gay person.”
Some of Cain’s answers will not sit well with conservatives who strive for purity on social issues. Cain’s remarks about hiring a homosexual in his administration didn’t take long to make their way to Facebook and other social media sites. With more credibility, Cain finds himself receiving more scrutiny. However, what matters at the end of the day is how many people he can get to vote for him. By that standard, he had a good day in Pella.
Cain also visited Sioux Center and Iowa City for The Family Leader events Monday. Newt Gingrich is scheduled for the series on July 11th.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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