ABC News' Michael Falcone ( @michaelpfalcone) reports:
Herman Cain told a ballroom full of social conservatives at the annual Faith and Freedom Coalition conference Saturday night that “we have a severe deficiency of leadership” in the White House and said he’s the presidential candidate to turn things around.
The country, he said, is facing a “moral crisis, an economic crisis...a spending crisis, an energy crisis.”
In a speech to the audience in Washington, DC that he began by reading a bible verse, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO emphasized that Americans may have to swallow a bitter pill to solve the problems facing the country. The “founding fathers didn't promise a department of happy,” he said.
He outlined his economic plan, which includes lowering the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, brining the capital gains tax down to zero, providing a payroll tax holiday for one year and making the George W. Bush tax cuts permanent.
“We've got to get away from being an entitlement society to an empowerment society,” he said.
On the international front, he singled out China as a key competitor. “My China strategy is very simple: outgrow China,” Cain said. “We outgrow China, we won't have to look back at China trying to catch us.”
He also made his stance on Israel crystal clear: “You mess with Israel, you’re messing with the USA.”
And answering charges he does not have enough foreign policy experience, he said: “Does the current president have any?”
He told the crowd his personal story of surviving cancer. "If God gives you an opportunity to stick around here,” he said, “it's not to try to improve your golf game."
“Stupid people are running America,” Cain complained on Saturday night. “We will put a conservative in the White House, and I've got a good feeling his name is going to be Herman Cain.”
Cain is moving up in the polls though he’s still behind top-tier candidates like Mitt Romney and possible contender Sarah Palin. The most recent Gallup Poll shows Cain with 8 percent support, behind Romney with 17 percent and Palin with 15 percent.
But Cain is definitely gaining steam. Need more evidence? Just take a look at some recent press coverage, beginning with a story in Sunday’s New York Times headlined: “A G.O.P. Hopeful Gathers Momentum as More Voters Like What They Hear.”
Even UK’s Daily Telegraph has tapped into the Cain phenomenon. On Saturday the paper posted a story: “Is America ready for The Herminator?”
Cain’s not shy -- not even about criticizing his fellow Republicans. In an interview on Saturday with Talking Points Memo, Cain called Rep. Michele Bachmann’s inclusion of a prayer in her speech to the conference “the ultimate pander.” (Bachmann plans to jump into the presidential race in the coming weeks.)
Though notably, Cain, himself, began his remarks Saturday night by reading a bible verse from 2nd Corinthians.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”