(Photo: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
Herman Cain, the GOP presidential candidate who shot from bottom to top tier this month, said Saturday that he is going to take on Texas Governor Rick Perry for the coveted evangelical vote.
Cain, who is barnstorming in Tennessee this weekend, said outspoken Christian candidate Perry has not sealed the deal with evangelical voters.
“[Perry] thought he had carved out that niche (evangelical vote), when he didn’t own that niche by himself,” Cain told The Associated Press.
“People are realizing that he is not the only Christian conservative in this race,” Cain said while in Harriman, Tenn.
The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO surprised many when he finished first in a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this week with 27 percent, a 4-point-lead within the margin of error over steady frontrunner Mitt Romney. Cain gained 22 points while Perry dropped 22 points, standing at 16 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney is at 23 percent.
By comparison, just six weeks ago, the same poll found Cain with only 5 percent support. Perry, meanwhile, was at 38 percent.
“You know, I don’t wear my Christian faith, which has been my faith since I was 10 years old, on my forehead,” continued the Georgia businessman, who often shares that he believes God has a plan for him since He allowed him to survive cancer, to AP.
“But people can see it on my website and when they read my credentials they can see I’m a staunch Christian conservative, and they are saying ‘wait a minute.’”
The Faith and Freedom Coalition, led by Christian Right leader Ralph Reed, estimated late last year that 29 percent of the conservative movement is evangelical Christians. And a Public Opinion Strategies survey released in November 2010 showed that 32 percent of Americans who showed up at the polls during the November elections identified themselves as part of the Christian conservative movement.
“What we know from [Tuesday] is that one of the largest, if not the largest, single voting blocs in the electorate is conservative people of faith,” said Reed after the November election. “They turned out in the largest numbers we’ve seen in a midterm election since these kinds of numbers have been kept.”
At the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, Herman Cain was the first runner-up, with 23 percent, behind libertarian Texas Congressman Ron Paul, at 37 percent. Rick Perry and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann tied at 8 percent, and Mitt Romney received only 4 percent of the votes.
Recent polls show Cain, who has shown persistence despite earlier low figures, is skyrocketing in popularity among the GOP base.
Meanwhile, Perry, who was the favored frontrunner earlier in his campaign, has slipped in the polls after failing to do well in debates, among other issues.
Cain has attracted much attention recently for his “9-9-9” economic plan, which would replace the current tax code with a flat-rate 9 percent income tax, 9 percent corporate tax and 9 percent sales tax.
The radical tax overhaul proposal has made Cain the target of other Republican presidential candidates at the New Hampshire debate earlier this week.
Former Utah Governor John Huntsman Jr., joked that he thought the 9-9-9 plan is “a catchy phrase. I thought it was the price of a pizza when I first heard it.”
Despite the turbulent sway of public opinion, Cain said Thursday before leaving for his Tennessee barnstorming that he trusts God’s sovereignty when it comes to his presidential campaign.
“I don’t know if I’m the leader that this nation needs at this particular point in our history but I believe God almighty knows,” Cain said at Ohio Christian University, according to CBS News
“And if I am, it is in the hands of God almighty. Not a party. Not the media.”