HARRISBURG, Pa.—Although he is no longer in the Republican presidential race, Herman Cain demonstrated this weekend that he still is a much-loved figure among grass-roots conservatives.
Speaking at Pennsylvania Leadership Conference here on Saturday morning, Cain was given a hero’s welcome by the largest-ever (more than 800 participants) PLC in its 23-year history. Following his address, the former Godfather’s Pizza boss spoke for U.S. Senate candidate Sam Rohrer before a crowd that jammed Two Cousins, which is—you guessed it!—a pizza parlor.
(From left to right: John Gizzi, Herman Cain, State Rep. Curt Schroeder (R-Penn), &. PA GOP Senate hopeful Sam Rohrer, just endorsed by Cain.)
In an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS, Cain revealed that he plans to campaign nationwide for Republican candidates who support his now-famous concept of a “9-9-9” tax—that is scrapping the present tax code altogether and replacing it with a 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent national sales tax, and a 9 percent corporate tax.
“It’s a bold move and it’s what needs to be done now,” said Cain, referring to the plan for tax reform that became his signature during his late presidential campaign. To achieve that goal, he explained, he is willing to campaign for candidates for the House and Senate—even if they are in contested primaries.
“What we ask is that they adopt ‘9-9-9,’” Cain told us, “This includes throwing out the entire U.S. tax code, repealing the 16th Amendment [which put in place the income tax], reading the proposal for 9-9-9—yes, you have to read the bill—and then voting for it.”
In pursuit of that goal, Cain has endorsed and campaigned for 34 House and Senate hopefuls this year. Among those he mentioned are Georgia U.S. House hopeful and conservative radio talk show host Martha Zoller, and Senate candidates Rohrer, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Pete Hoekstra of Michigan.
When we spoke to Rohrer—who arrived at Two Cousins with Cain in his private bus—he said he welcomed Cain’s support but that he was not yet committed to the 9-9-9 concept. As he told us, “I support the framework of what Herman wants to, namely repeal the present tax system and replace it with a flat tax. But I don’t necessarily support the full concept of a 9-9-9 system.”
Stalwart conservative Rohrer faces four opponents in the April 24 primary, including businessman Steve Welch, who has the support of GOP Gov. Tom Corbett. While he may not fully embrace 9-9-9, Rohrer clearly enjoyed having the blessings of Herman Cain today.
Gingrich vows hard-punching race against Santorum in PA
Undaunted by calls from fellow Republicans for him to exit the presidential race and unmoved by polls showing him running far behind rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich today vowed a full-blown campaign in the Pennsylvania primary April 24 and said this effort would hit particularly hard at Santorum.
“We’re going to be focusing on two key issues here—right-to-work and spending,” Gingrich told us shortly before addressing the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference here, pointing out that Santorum had always opposed right-to-work and “he was part of [Senate Republican] leadership team under which we went from a balanced budget to a trillion dollar debt. And that same leadership team presided over the worst Republican defeat in modern history in ’06.”
Noting that many PLC participants still bitterly recalled Santorum’s vigorous support of liberal former Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) in his tight primary victory over conservative Pat Toomey in ’04, we asked Gingrich whether that would be an issue in the presidential primary next month.
“It’s much than that,” replied Gingrich, “You have to go back to Specter announcing for president in 1996 and Santorum supporting him. Look at the clips of Specter making his announcement, speaking about his strong pro-choice position and his desire to remake the Republican Party into a more moderate party. Santorum gave him his all-out support for president that year and it was a tremendous error in judgement.”
As to criticism that Gingrich was not organized in the Keystone State (where he was born, as were Santorum and presidential candidate Ron Paul), the former House speaker shot back that “we have filed more delegates here than Santorum has.” 54 of Pennsylvania’s delegates to the Republican National Convention, or three per each of the state’s eighteen congressional districts, will be elected under their own name April 24, with the voting for actual delegates separate from the “beauty contest” vote that day in which names of the presidential candidate appear on the ballot.
State campaign chairman Charles Gerow told us that the Gingrich campaign “has filed about 34 delegate candidates” throughout the state, among them conservative State Rep. Curt Schneider of Lancaster County and former Rep. Bob Walker, who is Gingrich’s national chairman, in Lancaster.
Gingrich has always had a strong following among Pennsylvania conservatives and was the dinner speaker at the second PLC back in 1990. At that same PLC, one of the first panelists in its workshop was this reporter.