If Herman Cain wins the White House, and granted it’s a big if, there will be a Naples aspect to the story.
During his fundraising stop here Thursday, Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and a one-time chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, talked about the factors that led him to run.
High on the list was his work as a radio talk show host. At the start of 2009, Cain said he hoped Barack Obama would be a good president. Being on the radio forced him to study issues he hadn’t thought much about before and to analyze the president’s performance.
The more he learned, the more he disliked the path the country is on, he told roughly 60 potential donors at a luncheon on Fifth Avenue South. Having also studied the likely Republican contenders, he decided his business acumen is needed in Washington, D.C.
So how did Cain, a successful businessman with a knack for turning around struggling companies, come to be a radio host?
At the same luncheon, he credited Neal Boortz, a nationally syndicated conservative radio talk host who is based in Naples.
Boortz, who stopped by the Naples fundraiser to banter with Cain, normally plays reruns when he’s unable to do his show live. But upon meeting and hearing Cain in Atlanta, where Boortz did his show prior to moving to Naples, he asked him to guest host to a national audience. Cain’s only one of two guest hosts Boortz has used. The other is Newt Gingrich.
The opportunity raised Cain’s profile on the national stage. So much so that in spite of his lack of political experience, Cain has been beating better known opponents in straw polls, an admittedly unscientific gauge of electoral support, from Washington state to Iowa.
Boortz said Cain’s appeal is simple. “He’s just smart as hell,” Boortz said. “The business of America is business. He gets it. Barack Obama wouldn’t know a profit or a profit margin. Herman Cain knows. We need somebody that understands the free market.”
Boortz and Cain have toured together promoting the idea of the Fair Tax, a tax reform model Boortz has written about in two books. Based on that experience, Boortz says Cain has another attribute that will serve him well in the campaign. “He can fire up a crowd.”
Cain did his best to fire up the Naples group, which included prominent local figures on the political right such as State Sen. Garrett Richter, former State Rep. Tom Grady and radio hosts Trey Radel and Joe Whitehead, by claiming to be one of the first talk show hosts to call President Obama out on his policies. “I was one of the first radio hosts to use the “S” word,” Cain said. “Socialism is just a slow track to communism.”
He cited the National Labor Relations Board’s actions to block Boeing from building a plant in South Carolina as one example of the administration’s hostile attitude toward business. “This is a direct attack on our free enterprise system, folks,” he said.
Recognizing there were reporters in the room, Cain paused before criticizing the party he’s aligned with but after a moment’s hesitation forged ahead. “I don’t want the Republican Party to screw it up again,” he said, referring to the 2008 nomination of John McCain, whom Cain credited as a war hero and great American but faulted for being a lousy candidate. “That campaign was dead on arrival. You knew it and I knew it.”
Cain pulled no punches on the American electorate either. “Americans aren’t stupid,” he said before going on, “Fifty percent of them are stupid. They don’t have a clue. Why is his (Obama’s) approval rating still hovering around 40 percent?
“We don’t have to save them all. Just save the saveable,” he said.
Time is short to restore common business sense to the White House, Cain believes.
“American doesn’t have time for me to work my way up the political ladder. They need me now.”
With a little boost from Naples, who knows?
Connect with Brent Batten at naplesnews.com/staff.brent_batten