- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2011

Just a week after vaulting into the top tier of GOP presidential candidates with a surprise straw poll victory in Florida, Herman Cain is aggressively pressing his case, calling out rivals within his own party — Texas Gov. Rick Perry is “insensitive” to blacks, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie too liberal for conservatives — while also stepping up his criticism of President Obama.

The former Godfather’s Pizza executive capped off the biggest week of what was once considered a quixotic campaign with two new straw poll wins, an appearance on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” and a Sunday morning blitz of major news-talk shows.

On “Fox News Sunday,” the Georgia businessman and former radio talk-show host downplayed the possible impact of Mr. Christie making a late entry into the GOP race.

Mr. Christie’s positions on immigration, gun rights, civil unions and global warming will “turn off a lot of conservatives,” Mr. Cain asserted.

“I believe that a lot of conservatives … will not be able to support him,” he said.

Mr. Christie, who is reportedly considering a presidential bid, has in the past supported restrictions on automatic weapons. He also has said being in the country without proper documentation is not a crime, and that climate change is real and partially manmade.

Mr. Cain also weighed in on the latest controversy dogging Mr. Perry: A Washington Post report that he regularly hosted gatherings at a West Texas hunting camp with a racially repugnant name painted on a rock at the entrance to its acreage.

The Perry campaign said the offensive word on the rock was painted over in the 1980s, soon after the Perry family began leasing the hunting camp — a claim disputed by some camp visitors interviewed by The Post.

Asked about the story, Mr. Cain said the Texas governor should have taken action sooner.

“My reaction is, that’s just very insensitive,” Mr. Cain said Sunday. “There isn’t a more vile, negative word than the N-word, and for him to leave it there as long as he did before, I hear, that they finally painted over it, is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Cain told CNN he would not support Mr. Perry if he won the party’s nomination because of the Texas governor’s stand on in-state college-tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants.

Perry campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan said in a statement Sunday that “Mr. Cain is wrong about the Perry family’s quick action to eliminate the word on the rock, but is right the word written by others long ago is insensitive and offensive. That is why the Perrys took quick action to cover and obscure it.”

Mr. Cain on Sunday also took aim at civil-rights leaders who criticized his comments about the Democratic Party’s “brainwashing” of black voters.

“That’s not as insensitive as the president of the United States standing in front of a major black audience, the Congressional Black Caucus, and scolding them because his policies have failed,” Mr. Cain said. “His policies have failed black people. That’s more insulting to me than me using the term ‘brainwash.’”

While trading quips with Mr. Leno on NBC’s late-night program on Friday, Mr. Cain referred to another GOP rival, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a fellow tea party favorite, as a “grumpy old man,” and said the word “stressed” best described former Sen. Rick Santorum, yet another Republican presidential contender.

About Mitt Romney, Mr. Cain said simply: “Nice hair.”

It’s not just the media paying attention to the sudden rise of the former corporate executive-turned-politician.

Mr. Cain followed up his Florida straw poll victory by winning Saturday’s straw poll at TeaCon 2011, a tea party convention in Illinois and also taking first — by a wide vote margin — at another weekend conference, the National Federation of Republican Women meeting in Kansas City.

“It is very impressive,” Karen Floyd, former chairwoman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said in the Chicago Sun-Times. “In a straw poll with this many candidates on the ballot, it is unusual for one candidate to receive almost half of the votes.”

Mr. Cain received 48.9 percent of the 505 total votes cast, with Mr. Perry placing a distant second and Mr. Romney placing third.

The gathering drew hundreds of female Republican activists, but of the GOP contenders, only Mr. Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Mr. Santorum accepted invitations to speak to the group.

Responding to criticism of the Republican presidential field from Mr. Obama, who said the GOP candidates should have rebuffed audience members who booed the mention of a gay soldier serving in Iraq during a Sept. 22 debate, Mr. Cain said he felt the boos were directed at the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, not the soldier himself.

Still, he said he should have responded differently.

“In retrospect, because of the controversy it has created and because of the different interpretations that it could have had, yes, that probably — that would have been appropriate,” Mr. Cain said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I happen to think that maybe they were booing the whole ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal more so than booing that soldier,” he said.

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