By JOHN DISTASO
Senior Political Reporter
MANCHESTER – Conservative Herman Cain, former business executive, author and one-time radio talk show host, minces no words when it comes to his belief that he can become the next President of the United States.
He says he’ll rely on his business background and his insights into how Americans think garnered over five years as a talk show host.
He sold a business in 1996 and "didn’t make a whole lot of money. I’m not in a position to self-finance a campaign like other people. My middle name is not Meg Whitman or Mitt Romney. You’ve got to have the right message and the right messenger.
"If you have the right messenger and the right message, you don’t have to have a whole lot of money," Cain, a native of Atlanta, said in an interview.
Cain, who spoke on Friday night to the Hillsborough County Republican Committee at a fund-raiser dinner in Nashua, may not be well-known in New Hampshire. But he’s been working on that in a host of quiet visits to the state for almost a year.
In the Southeast, he has spoken to as many as 300,000 listeners turned in nightly to his talk show.
In that job, he "learned the depth of the problems that we face," he said.
Cain said he became serious about exploring running for President as many of his callers "had gone from being concerned about this country and its direction to being fearful. People are scared to death."
He announced in January the formation of an exploratory committee for a potential candidacy.
While he has steered away from elective politics, Cain brings to the campaign a rich business background and, because of his radio background, an ability to easily keep his audience’s attention.
An executive for Pillsbury for several years, in the early 1980s, Cain then managed 400 Burger Kings, a subsidiary of Pillsbury, before being appointed to head Godfather’s Pizza, another Pillsbury subsidiary. In 1988, Cain and a group of investors purchased the company. He said that when he left eight years later, the company employed about 12,000 people.
While far from a household name, Cain, 65, has been getting noticed in the liberty movement. He made headlines when he told the Conservative Political Action Conference recently that "stupid people are running America."
His book is titled, "They Think You’re Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It."
In February, Cain won a Tea Party Patriots straw poll in Phoenix.
And while he’s diametrically opposed to Obama on the big issues, Cain believes the fact that America has already elected its first African-American helps him.
"Now people are over this first black President thing," he said. "But there are some people who will say, ‘I’m not going to vote for another black guy because this one didn’t work out.’
"And my response is, ‘Well, what about those 43 white guys you put in there? How did they work out?’
"Don’t condemn me because the first black one was bad," Cain said with a smile.
Cain said Americans "genuinely have an appetite for somebody who can solve problems and can lead, and that’s what they will see in my record as I continue to take my story around the country."
Cain said that while businesses have learned to become productive during the recession, they are not investing heavily.
He said that during the next two years, without "some direct stimulus," business productivity will again decline. He said Obama’s stimulus plan was not direct stimulus and did not work.
Cain would lower the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent. He would make the current income tax rates permanent and cut the capital gains tax entirely.
"Small investors will invest more of their cash if they have an opportunity to bring in more cash," he said. "They don’t want to deplete their cash reserves."
He would suspend the tax on repatriated profits, which are profits made overseas that a business wants to bring back to the United States.
He said about $1 trillion could be returned to the U.S. economy if "the government doesn’t get its sticky little hands on it."
He would also cut the payroll tax by 6.2 percent.
"If you do these things, I would almost guarantee the economy will be growing at twice the current rate because you will take this veil of uncertainty off the economy," Cain said.
He said his own experience rescuing Godfather’s Pizza from bankruptcy contributed to his plan for economic growth.
Cain criticized the current "dance with the peacock every two weeks" in Washington over Republican efforts to use continuing resolutions to make small cuts in the budget.
If he were President, he said, he would propose a continuing resolution for the remainder of the current fiscal year at the same level as current spending, then work on major reforms and cuts for the next fiscal year’s budget.
On Social Security, Cain advocates a "Chilean model" personal retirement account. On health care, he said that at a televised town hall meeting in the 1990s, he "asked the right questions" about the Clinton health care plan that raised awareness among businesses of its higher costs. The plan’s popularity tumbled.
Cain said the Obama health care plan, with its individual mandate and "58 new bureaucracies," is a "disaster."
He advocates individual health savings accounts, partially funded by employers, as well as tort reform for "market driven, patient driven," reform.
Cain said Romney has done a poor job explaining the advantages of the health care plan he advocated and signed into law in Massachusetts.
On foreign affairs, Cain said that on his first day as President he would tell military leaders, "Show me the foreign policy strategy for every nation on the planet, whether they are friend or foe.
"And that’s the point, we don’t have a foreign policy strategy for every country, and it seems to me the current administration and to some extent the Bush administration are reacting to this stuff," Cain said.
"If they didn’t anticipate this happening, we have a problem," Cain said. "We don’t have an effective foreign policy."
He said that if military leaders tell him the U.S. can win in Afghanistan, "I’m going to say, ‘Give me a plan. If they say we can’t win, then I’ll say, ‘Give me an exit plan.’