GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain (GA) swung through Austin, Texas today fresh from his strong performance in the presidential debate in South Carolina a week ago. He spoke during breakfast to a capacity crowd from the Austin Economic Club. Cain’s speech ran about 25 minutes. He used no notes, and the closest teleprompter was a couple of blocks away at one of the local TV studios.
Mr. Cain speaks from memory and from his heart, so as he is quick to point out, he never delivers quite the same speech twice. The themes and issues will be consistent from speech to speech, but Cain’s is not a stump speech. The speech he delivered in Austin was equal parts CEO business lecture, motivational address, political stemwinder and Baptist sermon with jokes and personal anecdotes peppered throughout.
Cain hit all of the major issues, coming out strong for border security in this border state (“Instead of suing Arizona, they should have gotten a prize!”), hammering away at liberal politicians and policies (“The problem with liberals is, they can’t handle the facts!”), race (“I am black, but I happen to be an American first.”) and his conservatism (“I escaped the Democrat plantation and I’m not going back.”) Cain closed with a simple call to what makes him an optimist, and what makes him believe he can win, as well as what he tells his grandkids when they ask for his advice: “Believe in God, believe in yourself, and believe in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.” The audience gave Cain an enthusiastic standing ovation after the speech, a rare reaction from a group that is used to hearing from everyone from sitting governors to former presidents and other major national political figures.
After the speech he held an improptu question and answer session with the local media, and more than held his own. As I tweeted during the speech, Cain combines his strong speaking style with his extensive experience atop national restaurant chains and the National Restaurant Association to deliver a message that’s serious, often hilarious, and very effective.
Herman Cain made light of his current status as “not a top tier candidate” but he may be the most gifted orator in the contest on either side of the aisle in the 2012 race, including the president. The South Carolina debate has clearly put the wind at his back in the short run. What remains to be seen is if he can sustain the momentum over the long haul of a competitive national primary.
Kim Chambers interviewed Mr. Cain for PJTV after his speech, asking him about the campaign, current several issues including the NLRB”s move against Boeing, and President Obama’s El Paso speech. We will have that posted on PJTV as soon as possible.