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CNN "American Morning" - Transcript


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Joining us now from Atlanta this morning, the surprising runaway winner of Saturday's Republican straw poll in Florida, Herman Cain. Welcome.


COSTELLO: I mean, you didn't just win the straw poll. You creamed everyone. You won with 37 percent of the vote, more than Rick Perry and Mitt Romney combined. So you must be feeling great this morning?

CAIN: I feel great, but I feel even greater, because the voice of the people is bigger than the voice of the media with all due respect. And here's the second thing. The message is more powerful than money.

Both of my contenders that came in second and third, they spent a considerable amount of money try to influence the outcome of that vote. I rented a bus, traveled all over the state.

Did some stops sharing my message of common sense solutions and specifically sharing my message about how I would boost this economy with my 999 plan. That's what resonated with people. Not just the media hype.

COSTELLO: Some are saying, of course, they're your opponents, some are saying you're a smooth debater, you're a good talker. Rick Perry had a terrible debate on Thursday. That's really why you pulled ahead in this Florida straw poll.

CAIN: You have to be in an effective communicator. If I were not an effective communicator, that would be a big weakness, but you also have to have some substance. People are resonating with my ideas.

I just don't give generic responses to what we need to do about the economy. I have given a specific plan, 999, which is different from any of my other competitors because they are tying their plans for boosting the economy to the existing tax code.

My plan is bold, because it throws out the tax code and opposes a business flat tax of 9 percent, a personal flat tax of 9 percent and national sales tax of 9 percent.

It replaces all of the taxes that now people grapple with and it provides certainty to the business community, which is what they're looking for in order to grow this economy.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about something that's going on right now in Washington, and that would be FEMA funding. There's a danger that the government could be shut down again on Friday. What is your feeling?

I mean, Democrats want to fund FEMA without offsetting spending cuts. Republicans want those offsetting spending cuts. Do you think there should be offsetting spending cuts to fund FEMA, even though historically that's never been the case?

CAIN: First of all, we should not play politics with tragedies. You're talking about human beings out there not a group of statistics so the fact that they want to play politics with it beings, I would blame both parties.

Secondly, you and I both know that there's plenty of money in Washington, D.C. to offset anything that we need to spend on FEMA. I would make sure that FEMA got the money that it needed, and if I have to go find the offsets later, go find it later. Stop playing with people's tragedies.

COSTELLO: You're saying right now we should just fund FEMA and forget about the offsetting spending cuts and maybe later, if we find them, go back and get the deal done that way?

CAIN: Yes. Why not have a gentleman's agreement? I know that might be an anomaly in Washington, D.C. Why not have a gentleman's agreement? We're going to fund FEMA, if it makes sense, if it's the right amount of money.

We're going to have a gentleman's agreement that we will find the offsets, rather than putting, finding the offset right in the middle of it making it a political football.

COSTELLO: OK, so I want to play for you what Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said this weekend. He said that the funding for FEMA should be a no-brainer, just like you, but we're gridlocked over it.

So Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, he actually blamed the House Tea Party for the delays. Listen and then we'll talk about it on the other side.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: There is a group, and I do believe it is mostly centered in the House in terms of some of these Tea Party Republicans who say on every issue, we're going to make this a make or break. We saw it on the FAA when they shut down the Federal Aviation Administration. We're seeing it now on this debate about FEMA.


COSTELLO: So this is only 0.04 percent of the federal budget. As a Tea Party supporter, why fight over this, this small part of the budget?

CAIN: Like I said, I would not make this a battleground. There's an old saying, pick your battles and pick your wars. This is one I would basically try to, you know, fall on the sword for. Go ahead and do what's right for the people.

See, here's one of the things that (inaudible) from a lot of other people that are running for the nomination for president of the United States. I focus on the problem first then I focus on what the solution is.

Put politics aside and deal with that while you present the solution. The solution is, fund FEMA. These people are suffering. They should not have to suffer because of the political bickering.

And to blame the Tea Party group for being the ones that are holding this up that's just more politics as usual. This nation is starved for some leadership --

COSTELLO: But -- but don't House members --


CAIN: And sometimes the media (ph) has to say something differently.


COSTELLO: -- who belong to the Tea Party, aren't they the ones pushing for these offsetting costs?

CAIN: It doesn't matter. They may be the ones pushing for the offsetting costs. Looking for someone to blame for the political gridlock is what I'm saying, as calmly as I can, should not be the issue. The issue should be, how do we get the relief to the people that need it the most now?

COSTELLO: So are these House Tea Party leaders wrong to fight, if indeed they are blocking this bill from going forward?

CAIN: I am not going to weigh in on who's wrong and who's right. I'm sure you have people on both sides from both parties who have different feelings on this. Leadership rises above the politics when there is a need. We have a need here. I would focus on the need.

COSTELLO: Herman Cain. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

CAIN: You're welcome. Happy to be here.

COSTELLO: You, too. Congratulations again.

CAIN: Thanks.


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