Hopeful touts outsider status

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Republican Herman Cain meets with supporters after speaking at an Aiken Republican Club meeting. Cain said America is on the wrong track, but he remains hopeful.

AIKEN --- Jackie Knight wants to vote for a man who might cut her job.


Knight was one of more than 250 people gathered for a meeting of the Aiken Republican Club where presidential hopeful Herman Cain spoke.

"He's been my candidate from the beginning," she said.

A supporter of drastic budget and tax reform, Cain promised to consolidate or even cut many government departments he sees as superfluous.

Knight works for the Department of Energy, and she said if Cain is elected, it's very possible she might lose her job.

"That would be hard, but it's really OK with me," she said. "The government is just too big."

Cain has never held a government office, but he says that makes him "more of a normal person and not a Washington insider."

For Knight, that's his greatest strength.

"He's a regular person, he's Everyman," she said. "I think the American people are looking for real change from the ground up."

In talking to the crowd, Cain emphasized that Everyman persona frequently.

"I don't like anything to get between me and the people," he said as he stepped out from behind the podium.

The turnout for Cain was more than any speaker before him, said club president Tony Coffaro.

"This is a great day for our club," he said. "That's what we're here for, is to let people in the community interact with candidates on a personal level."

Cain worked in corporate America for years, with major corporations such as Pillsbury and Coca-Cola, and eventually became CEO of Godfather's Pizza. That business experience, he said, gives him a pragmatic approach to the government.

"When is the last time the people in Washington fixed something?" he said. "America is on the wrong track, but the good news is that we can get it back. And it's not by compromising."

Robert Gossett has been involved with the Aiken Republican Party for years, he said, and he sees Cain as a candidate with a lot of potential in South Carolina.

"He doesn't flip flop on where he stands on the issues," he said. "He has a strong business message that should resonate with the American people."

South Carolina is an important state for any presidential hopeful, Gossett said. No candidate has ever lost the South Carolina primary and gone on to win the Republican nomination.

"It's still early, but he's being looked at heavily even at this point," Gossett said. "If he appeals to both fiscal and social conservatives, he should do very well here."

As Cain wrapped up his address, he said it's his grandchildren that motivate him to be involved in politics.

"It ain't about us," he said. "It's about our kids and our grandchildren, and they don't deserve what they're going to get unless we step up and do something."

Cain said he plans to officially announce his candidacy Saturday at noon in Atlanta, among his supporters and friends.

"My secret weapon is the American people," he said in closing. "They say, when they feel the heat, they'll see the light. I'm relying on you guys to create some heat."

Romney plans to visit S.C.

COLUMBIA --- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney heads to South Carolina on Saturday for his first visit since forming a presidential exploratory committee.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said he will visit the Columbia area, but the details haven't been worked out.

Romney formed his exploratory committee in April.

In 2008, Romney had one of the best-honed campaigns and snapped up top consultants and endorsements quickly, including U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint's.

However, his 2008 bid ended in criticism in South Carolina when he bypassed the state in the final days before the primary and John McCain won here.

His top South Carolina consultants from 2008 -- Warren Tompkins and Terry Sullivan -- aren't working with him this time. Tompkins isn't involved with a presidential candidate and Sullivan now works for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Romney is expected to eventually enter the race. He has been laying groundwork in South Carolina, and in last year's elections, he poured more than $86,000 into campaigns. Romney has visited the state four times since 2009, including campaign stops with Gov. Nikki Haley in last year's primary. Romney and his state political action committees gave $63,000 to Haley's campaign.

-- Associated Press


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