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Candidate's latest pitch: Beat Obama with a Cain

November 10, 2011|By Maeve Reston
(Paul Sancya / Associated…)

Reporting from Ypsilanti, Mich. — After a difficult week on the campaign trail, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain took a pass on critiquing rival Rick Perry’s performance in the debate Wednesday night, but told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters at a Ypsilanti diner: "I think we came through that one looking pretty good."

"Perry couldn’t remember nothin’!” a man shouted as Cain took the microphone at the Big Sky Diner, where more than 100 people gathered to greet him. But Cain – who has surged in the polls as the Texas governor has fallen back – seemed determined to stay above the fray.

Moments earlier on his way into the diner, Cain was asked about Rick Perry’s inability Wednesday night to remember one of the three federal departments that he would eliminate. After a long pause, Cain replied: “We’ve got to go inside.”

The former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza seemed eager to turn the page from a week in which several women have come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment in the mid-1990s while he was head of the National Restaurant Assn. He alluded briefly to that topic during his remarks inside the diner, where he argued that his 9-9-9 plan for a flat 9% sales, business and income tax would ultimately win over the American people.

"You can tell that I’m going to be the president of the people and not of the politicians because as you can tell they’re starting to come after me, they are starting to attack me any and every way they can," Cain said, alluding to the sexual harassment allegations. "Since they can’t kill the ideas, they are trying to attack my integrity and my character. But the American people are not buying that. They are sick of gutter politics."

"That’s right," members of the audience shouted.

Cain also showed his unusual sense of humor on the way out the door, after a man offered words of encouragement by saying "Yes We Cain!" – a riff on President Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, "Yes we can."

"How do you beat Obama – beat him with a Cain," Cain said to the friendly group of supporters.

As Cain was whisked out of the building through a back kitchen, a reporter asked what he meant by that joke.

"Herman Cain – C-A-I-N," Cain responded, spelling out the letters of his last name. "Do I have to connect all the dots for you?"

The morning after the ninth debate of the Republican presidential contenders, Cain said he apologized for calling former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi "Princess Nancy."

But Cain went on to say the media should study Pelosi’s own statements more carefully.

"I remember when Speaker Pelosi called the tea party people Astroturf," Cain said. "I don’t remember anybody asking about that story."

"Why do you apologize — was it insensitive to call her that?" a reporter asked.

"So you all stop asking me about it," Cain replied.  "Look I’m about the big issues, fixing this economy, not focusing on stuff like that. Alrighty? So ask her why she called the tea party people Astroturf a couple of years ago. That ought to be the question."

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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