After first apologizing for suggesting an electric fence along the border, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain told reporters here Monday that he still thinks it’s a good idea for controlling illegal immigration.
“I’m not walking away from that,” he said.
Cain has spent the last several days explaining a controversial comment about building an electrified fence along the U.S. – Mexico border that he said could kill people trying to enter the country illegally. On Sunday, he said his comments were “a joke.” But talking to reporters here after a meeting here with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a national reputation for cracking down on illegal immigrants, Cain reversed course.
Initially Cain apologied when told his remarks had upset some in the state. “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa,” he said, using the Latin formula for expressing contrition. But when a reporter challenged his description of his comments, saying he didn’t seem to be telling a joke, the retired pizza executive acknowledged: “You’re right.” He said he still believes in the need for a border fence “and it might be electrified.”
With frontrunner status comes increased scrutiny (unless you’re Mitt Romney, anyway). Jokes and backtracks like this aren’t going to cut it. They make entertaining talk radio fodder but will cost you a week of serious campaigning.