Herman Cain won’t be “trashing” his fellow tea-party candidate Michele Bachmann, but he’s convinced that his more extensive business experience will give him a boost among voters.
“I would make my case [to undecided tea-party voters] not by trashing Bachmann,” Cain tells National Review Online in a wide-ranging interview today. “I happen to think that she’s very competent, very capable, and I like the fact that she is helping to deliver the conservative message. On issues, you’re not going to find us too far apart.”
Instead, Cain pinpoints “leadership style” as the key difference between himself and the Minnesota congresswoman.
“She has been a businesswoman at one point in her career. I have been a businessman my entire career. So I have a longer track record of fixing problems, of turning things around,” Cain says, adding that the “diversity of problem situations” he had coped with during his time at Pillsbury, Godfather’s Pizza, and the National Restaurant Association gave him more experience than Bachmann gained in her time as a tax attorney.
He won’t be targeting frontrunner Mitt Romney on his record or bringing up the Massachusetts health-care program, either. “I’m going to leave that to the media,” he says. “They’re doing a good job beating him up on that hill. They don’t need my help.”
He also pushed back against the suggestion that the resignation of Matt Murphy, the only Cain staffer in New Hampshire, meant he wasn’t competing to win in the Granite State. Murphy told the New Hampshire Union-Leader yesterday that he had no “ill will” toward Cain, but that the two had differences regarding how often Cain should visit New Hampshire and whether the campaign should spend more and hire additional staff for the state.
“The statement that Matt Murphy made that we were not competing in New Hampshire was false,” Cain says, noting that he’d visited the state 14 times since the beginning of the year. He’s been to Iowa 21 times. “The only reason there’s a seven-visit difference is because Iowa votes first,” Cain remarks. “I’ll catch up to New Hampshire when we get Iowa behind us.”
He confirmed that he plans to have more than one staffer in New Hampshire in the near future, but wouldn’t give the exact number. “Can’t tell you that,” he chuckles. “I don’t want Mitt Romney to know.”
That’s not to say he plans to compete with Romney on money or staff, though. “No matter how many we have, he’s going to have about five or ten times more. Numbers aren’t necessarily what’s driving this train,” he says. “We’re not going to raise as much money as Mitt Romney is capable of spending, or what he’s already spent.”
When he’s not polishing his campaign strategy, Cain continues to develop detailed policy positions. On economic growth, he’s at least as optimistic as Tim Pawlenty, whose economic plan calls for a 5 percent growth rate. “If Herman Cain is president, I believe we can be growing 5 or 6 percent,” he says. He plans to achieve this through aggressive tax cuts, coupled with a switch to the FairTax, which involves eliminating the IRS and levying a federal sales tax instead. To him, economic reform is also a national-security issue: He believes the U.S. “must outgrow” China, which is currently experiencing double-digit economic growth. When pressed, he clarifies that we don’t need to grow at a higher rate than China; we merely need to grow quickly enough to stay well ahead.
When it comes to foreign policy, Cain views his lack of experience as ultimately irrelevant “How much foreign-policy experience do you need to listen to experts?” he asks. “How much foreign-policy experience do you need to not telegraph what you’re going to do to your enemy?”
When asked which experts he would consult, Cain rattles off a list of four-star generals and national-security hawks: Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus, Reagan-administration official K. T. McFarland, and former United Nations ambassador John Bolton. “There’s a long list of people who know what the hell we should be doing,” he says.
But shouldn’t the president himself know? “Not necessarily,” Cain argues, “because we got more than one problem.” His economic expertise is more essential, he believes.