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On tour, Herman Cain leaves them cheering and weeping

October 15, 2011|By Robin Abcarian
(Kenneth Cummings/AP )

Reporting from Waverly, Tenn. — Some candidates tucker out as the day goes on, and some seem to draw an extra measure of strength from their adoring crowds.

By the end of the day Friday, the first of a two-day bus tour through his native Tennessee, the normally energetic Herman Cain was even more pumped up than usual. At the last of three rallies, he had women weeping and men raising their hands testifying.

In some ways, the fervor of the crowd that had come to see him at 7 p.m. in Waverly, a little town between Memphis and Nashville, was reminiscent of the intensity inspired by then-candidate Barack Obama, whose oratorical skills persuaded voters uncertain about the prospects for a black presidential candidate with little experience on the world stage.

Cain’s surging popularity was reflected in sheer number of supporters -- more than 1,000 -- who turned out to hear the Republican presidential contender address the Humphreys County Tea Party in a big agriculture building at the local fairgrounds.

“There is something going on in this country,” he said, “Because of you, the long shot isn’t such a long shot anymore.”

Though Cain had already delivered his stump speech twice earlier in the day, he was more animated and passionate that he had been in earlier appearances. The atmosphere in the barn changed from campaign rally to something more resembling a old-fashioned revival meeting.

 “I am going to be in this thing to the end of the nomination,” vowed Cain, who told the crowd he had raised $2.8 million this quarter and ended with $1 million on hand. He acknowledged it wasn’t much compared to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s $14 million or Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s $17 million.

But, said Cain, “In addition to my itty-bitty million dollars in funds. I have no debt. I’m running this campaign the way I want to run this country.”

Over and over, the crowd called to him, answered him and gave him at least half a dozen standing ovations.

Cain finished by doing something he doesn’t usually do, at least not on the campaign trail. An accomplished singer who released a gospel album in July, he belted out a spiritual called “He Looked Beyond My Faults.”

"I'll never know why Jesus came to love me so," sang Cain. "He looked beyond our faults and needs."

And he didn’t just sing one verse, he sang the whole song. People raised their hands and closed their eyes. Women brushed tears from their cheeks.

L.D. Andrews, a 62-year-old home health aide had a hard time containing herself all evening. She’d been jumping out of her seat  and clapping all during Cain’s speech. “I like what the man has to say,” Andrews said, wiping her eyes. “If I have my way, he will be president.” 

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