The Corner

Cain Mulls an Endorsement, Rules Out Perry and Paul

As he watches his former competitors begin a two-week sprint to the Iowa caucuses, Herman Cain is not ready to endorse a candidate. But he is inching closer to a decision, telling NRO that he has ruled out two contenders. “I would definitely not endorse Ron Paul or Rick Perry,” he says. “It’s nothing personal, we’re just too far apart in terms of our ideas.”

“At this point, there are only two people I would consider endorsing, and only two,” Cain says. “I’m hesitant, however, to endorse because if I endorse one, that may disappoint half of my supporters, and if I endorse the other, it would disappoint the other half. I don’t want to do that. My objective is not to determine the nominee, to be a big influence, it’s to beat Barack Obama.”

Cain is prepared to wait months until he officially weighs in. “And maybe by that time, it won’t matter, and that’s okay,” he says. “I’m going to wait until a clear leader emerges.”

In the meantime, he has some advice for the contenders, especially Mitt Romney, who he thinks needs to be more “specific” on the trail. “Be more specific, that’s what my Uncle Leroy and Aunt Bessie understand,” he says, and encourages Romney to move beyond “generic solutions.”

Cain, however, saves most of his praise for Newt Gingrich. And he understands why many people thought he was leaning toward Gingrich after he left the race. “People deduced that because we laughed when we were at the debates,” he says. “Newt would come over and ask, ‘You having fun?’ And I’d laugh, ‘Oh, yeah.’ We were the most relaxed people up there.”

“Newt and I also go back to the 1990s,” Cain says, mentioning his work with House Republicans with various economic initiatives. Then and now, he greatly admires the former speaker’s ability to communicate his message with sharp-edged rhetoric. “I wouldn’t call it zany,” he says, referring to Romney’s recent description of Gingrich. “I’d call it bold.”

Indeed, any criticism of Gingrich for being an agitator, he says, is misguided. “That’s the problem with the party,” he says. “When you step out there with something bold, you get accused of being extreme. That’s why we keep losing. Be bold!”

“There is a disconnect,” Cain says. “The political class wants to play it safe. The people are saying, ‘We want bold.’ This country is in a mess and kicking the can down the road.”

Turning to Michele Bachmann, Cain respects her — “we have a cordial relationship” — but he did not find her many mentions of his name at a recent debate to be appealing. He says “9-9-9” is a serious package of reforms and to call her proposal “win-win-win” distracts from that.

“If she was going to make a hard pull [for his support], it was not a very hard pull,” he says. “It was almost like she was making fun of it again. She made fun of it once before. Win-win-win? What does that mean? It means nothing. It’s going back to generic solutions. It was an attempt to come up with a catchy name and it didn’t stick, it didn’t have any substance.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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