LOS ANGELES — Still basking from his surprise win in a Florida straw poll, Herman Cain, the businessman turned GOP presidential aspirant, tried on Monday to build on his 15 minutes of fame by insisting he really is an authentic candidate and more than just a lucky recipient of protest votes.
Speaking on NBC and CNN, Cain pushed his message that people picked him in the weekend’s Florida straw vote because he was expounding a receptive program. He denied that his votes were a protest of front-runner Rick Perry’s poor performance in last week’s debates.
“It’s not a protest vote,” Cain said, rejecting media analyses that Perry lost what should have been an easy victory among Florida conservatives, part of the Texas governor’s core constituency. “The voice of the people is more powerful than the media.”
Cain’s victory was in a straw vote, which measures how people attending an event view the candidates, rather than being a scientific sample designed to measure all viewpoints across the nation. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, for example, often does well in straw polls because his followers come out in droves, though his national numbers tend to be far less overwhelming.
Still, Cain outdrew Perry by a ratio of better than 2-to-1, 37 percent to 15 percent. In fact, Cain won some bragging rights by getting more votes than Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney combined. Romney placed third in Florida, where he did not invest major resources.
In his television appearances, Cain credited his message, particularly his idea to throw out the existing tax code. “I feel great,” he said of his victory. “The message is more powerful than money.”
Cain’s economic policy is based on what he calls his 9-9-9 plan: 9 percent tax on corporate income; 9 percent personal tax rate; and a 9 percent federal sales tax. The plan causes a split among economists and politicians. It would eliminate deductions and it would also hit the poor and middle class hardest since the sales tax would represent a larger chunk of their income than a rich per son’s.
Still, Cain argues that it would be fairer in the long run. “You have to be an effective communicator,” he said, but a candidate also needs to have substance. “People are resonating to my ideas.”
In addition to making the morning news shows, Cain was also satirized on “Saturday Night Live,” a mark of distinction in some circles. Cain, a former pizza chain executive, said he was flattered by the portrayal and may adopt it as a campaign slogan.
“Vote for me and I’m going to deliver,” he said.