Is Cain able?

Herman Cain is rather impressive in person. A strapping man with a bold handshake, it is easy to see why this son of a chauffeur has risen to national prominence in an ever growing field of GOP presidential contenders. During a recent visit to Reno, I sat down one-on-one with Cain and had a conversation about his career, his life and his burgeoning campaign for president.

“I am not a politician, I’m a problem solver,” says Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. “People who succeed follow a specific formula. One, make sure you’re working on the right problem. Two, make sure you surround yourself with good people. This country has a series of crises, and we don’t have any serious problem solving going on in Washington, D.C.”

I asked Cain about the fact that he’s never held any public office, and he chuckled. “The fact I’ve never held public office is an asset. When I give speeches out on the road, I tell the crowds right up front that I’ve never held high public office, and they applaud. They are tired of the same old stuff. I’m not running for president for fame, for ego, or for fortune. No! This country is rapidly going down the wrong track, and I don’t believe that you can change it quickly without occupying the White House.”

Cain spoke at length about his campaign strategy and his ideas on how to win the nomination. “We are not using the traditional, political ‘top down’ model. We are using a grassroots, ‘bottom up’ model. When I came to Godfather’s Pizza, and I became its president, the company was supposed to be going bankrupt. But it didn’t! We weren’t the biggest. We didn’t have the biggest marketing budget, we had a few hundred restaurants. We were up against three competitors who had a few thousand restaurants, but we were able to succeed by getting closer to our customers and closer to the people working in our stores. I plan to be the same kind of president. I’ve been out campaigning that same way—listening to the people. Finding out what’s on their minds. Connecting with the people is what will allow me to do an effective job in turning this country around and solving some of the problems this country currently faces.”

Foreign policy is first on Cain’s issues list: “My first legislative priority would be to clarify what I call our ‘foggy foreign policy.’ We are embattled in three wars; we have some interesting relationships, which adds to the frustration. Why did we go there? What are we doing? When can we go home? I don’t think the American people know that, and it frustrates them.”

Cain’s second priority is the economy. “I have a two-phase economic vision. Phase one is to ask congress to lower the top corporate and personal income tax rate to 25 percent—for both. Secondly, suspend taxes on repatriated profits. We have nearly $3 trillion offshore, and companies won’t bring it home because of double taxation. I wouldn’t either! These rates need to be permanent, and I will ask congress to make it so within the first 90 days of my presidency.”

Overall, Herman Cain fascinates me. He has little money, but he’s the only one moving in the polls. He’s starting to inch into the top tier, and considering the snooze fest up there, they could use a wakeup call. He disappoints me greatly when he speaks on social issues, and his love affair with the FairTax may be enough to sink him, but we shall see. America is through with the status quo, and Cain’s fiery appeal may be the alternative to the establishment monotony that is Romney, Bachmann and the rest of the blue suit gang. America craves a game changer. Is Herman Cain that game changer? Not yet, but he has my attention.