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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Interview

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GRIFFIN: Businessman Herman Cain calls himself a real leader with real solutions to America's economic problems. But can he really win the White House?

The presidential candidate and former pizza company CEO is here with us in the studio.

Last hour I talked with columnist and CNN contributor John Avlon about your candidacy, and I just want you to listen to what he had to say.

CAIN: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The reality is, is that as great as it is to be a CEO in the run for president, the folks who have tried to approach the Oval Office with that resume don't generally do too well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: My reaction is sometimes that long shot becomes the short shot. I started out in this campaign against the odds.

My name I.D. was zero when I announced my exploratory back in January, national name I.D. By the time I announced my official run in May, my name I.D., because I had spent a lot of time on the ground speaking to Tea Partiers, rallies and town hall meetings, my name I.D. had gotten up to 21 percent.

The latest Gallup poll shows that my name I.D. is now 50 percent. So the long shot is gaining ground.

Why? Even though I'm not getting much of the media coverage as "a top-tier candidate," the real folk, the people on the ground, the activists, they know who I am because I have been speaking all over this country for the last year.

GRIFFIN: One thing you brought up last night which has caught a lot of attention is your 999 plan. And I know that's the heart of your economic plan.

CAIN: Yes.

GRIFFIN: So, go ahead. Give us the pitch. CAIN: First, as I indicated, this economy is on life support. We don't need a solution that trims around the edges. Everything that's in President's Obama's proposed jobs plan, trimming around the edge. A little trinket here, a little tax cut here, a tax credit here. Even the other candidates that were on the stage last night, they were all talking about how we're going to refigure this messed up tax code to generate jobs.

999 is bold. It takes the current tax code, throws it out, and puts one in that has a 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent personal income tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax. It expands the tax base, which means that once businesses have some certainty, they are going to plan for growth, they are going to expand their businesses, they are going to hire people.

That's what we need to get this economy going, not only because it's an economic crisis, it's also because it's a national security crisis.

GRIFFIN: Mr. Cain, I want to ask you about the president and his jobs plan which he's selling today.

CAIN: Yes.

GRIFFIN: What I hear from the president is an anti-business mentality, a taxing of the wealthy people. It's certainly an anti-oil company mentality. And what I hear from the Republican Part is, look, it's the millionaires, it's the oil companies, it's those corporations that provide the jobs.

You've been the head of a corporation.

CAIN: Yes.

GRIFFIN: You've been the head of a small business.

CAIN: Yes.

GRIFFIN: And you've been the head of an association of small businesses.

From a business perspective, who is right here?

CAIN: The businesspeople are right. Businesspeople see uncertainty in their plan. And let me correct one thing in terms of how this is being described.

If all -- if only it required taxing the millionaires more, and that was going to solve the problem, millionaires don't care. They got -- that's not the issue.

That $200,000 threshold, that's a sneaker tax that most people miss. And what I mean by that, most small businesses -- and remember, I ran the National Restaurant Association, as you pointed out, a collection of thousands of small businesses, not humongous corporations -- most of them are incorporated as Subchapter S corporations. If they can eke out a profit in that restaurant, or in that gift shop, they have to run it through their personal income tax return.

That's the sneaker tax. So you're really penalizing a lot of the small businesses that create most of the jobs when there's some certainty.

GRIFFIN: They're giving me a wrap, but I'm going to ask you one more question. Realistically, I know you want to be president.

CAIN: Yes.

GRIFFIN: I know you want to do this, but it's a hard road ahead, as you well know.

CAIN: It's a journey.

GRIFFIN: I think to Rick Perry ticket, you would bring business expertise. To Mitt Romney's ticket, you would bring Tea Party.

Have either of these men pulled you aside last night after the debate and said, hey, Herman, stick around?

CAIN: The answer is no because -- now we have a good relationship. I have a good relationship with both of them casually, you know, in terms of being cordial to one another. But no, not at this point.

But here's the thing, Drew. This race isn't over yet.

I know that they -- I know that some people see this as a two- person race, or maybe a three-person race. And like John Avlon said, maybe it's a three-person race. No.

The people that are the activists, they are saying it's OK if you don't have a 100 percent name I.D., it's OK if you don't have a kajillion dollars. And here's the thing that I get an applause for nearly everywhere I speak to groups. It's OK that I'm the only non- politician running and I'm a business problem solver.

GRIFFIN: All right. I do have to wrap now. Wolf Blitzer would have wrapped you up a long time ago. He's much better than me.

(LAUGHTER)

GRIFFIN: Herman Cain, thanks very much.

CAIN: Thanks, Drew. Appreciate the opportunity.

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