This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," October 26, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: There's new evidence that Herman Cain has indeed taken over the status as frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
Now, according to a Fox News poll released just a short time ago, Herman Cain now leads Mitt Romney by four points, Newt Gingrich rounds out the top three with 12 percent, followed by Rick Perry and Ron Paul. Now, to put in perspective Cain's epic surge, he received only six percent of the vote when the survey was taken back in August.
Now meanwhile, right here in Ohio, things are no different for Cain. A Quinnipiac poll release today has him on top with 28 percent of the vote, leading Romney by five points. Ron Paul is in third with just eight percent of the vote.
So, what's even more interesting, in a three-way primary race between Cain, Romney and Perry in Ohio, Cain defeats Romney by seven points and Perry by 30.
Joining me to talk about his rise to the top is businessman, Republican presidential candidate, the one and only Herman Cain. Well, those numbers have to make you feel pretty good.
HERMAN CAIN , R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they make us feel pretty good, Sean, but it also means that we have to still continue to work hard. We are very pleased with that but we are not letting up and we are sticking to our strategy.
HANNITY: What do you think is the reason for this incredible rise you've had? And not only that, you know, the question I think a lot of us had early on, was OK, Pawlenty was up, down and out, Michele Bachmann had a surge, Perry had a surge. You seem to be maintaining it. What's the reason that you think you are able to maintain this surge?
CAIN: I think that the Florida straw poll that took place about three weeks ago really sent the message, number one, the voice of the people is more powerful than the voice of the media, with all due respect. The second thing that came out of that, Sean, is that message is more powerful than money. Right from the beginning, and you've seen it in the debates, I have talked about solutions to problems, developed the solutions and shared them with the public and they are connecting with the public. You know that my economic growth and jobs plan has become very popular with the public, my 9-9-9 plan. But I have also put other ideas on the table.
So, I believe that what's happening, base upon what people are telling me, is that the fact that I have a direct, clear message about how I would address these crises we face, is resonating with the American people and I think that that has driven it a lot.
HANNITY: All right. What do you make of the last debate? I think the full first half-hour of that debate was spent on your fellow candidates criticizing you, criticizing the 9-9-9 plan, asking you some pretty tough questions about it. You know, I guess you probably liked it because you got a lot of airtime, but did you feel that you explained it to the extent that you want to explain this plan to the American people and convince them, A, you can pass it, and, B, this is revenue neutral, and even, C, that this is the right plan for America?
CAIN: I knew that the bulls-eye on my back, Sean, was big, but I didn't know it was that big until that last debate. And I did not feel as if I was able to explain their attacks adequately because, as you know, you only get 30 seconds to respond. But the good news is I continue to deflect it by saying you haven't read the plan, you haven't read the analysis. The good news is Arthur Laffer, who is one of the most respected economists on the planet, wrote a very nice article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, basically confirming everything that I was trying to say.
So, during the debate, I did adequately do it, but I have since then been able to explain it to a lot of people, as well as answer to lot of questions. And I think a lot of people realize that most of those attacks, Sean, had no basis whatsoever.
HANNITY: Do you worry by opening up a sales tax without eliminating the income tax -- for example, I know years ago, you were a pretty strong supporter of the flat tax, which would be a consumption tax, but a tax that would also eliminate the IRS and get rid of the income tax.
So, do you worry that there's going to be so many different venues where politicians in the future can go 9-9-9, 10-10-10, 15-15-15 and now they just have a whole new area of taxation as future Congresses and administrations would come into play?
CAIN: No, the answer is no, I don't worry and here's why. Number one, introducing a sales tax, let me clarify one of the other false attacks from the debate. It is not a vat tax. Even Governor Perry is referring to it as a vat tax. It is not a vat tax. It is a single rate tax at the retail register. The other reason that I don't worry is, because, first of all, it's visible. The American public, they're going to be the ones to hold Congress' feet to the fire and not run away with raising 9-9-9 to some other outrageous number. The other thing is, introducing a national sales tax, we throw out 82,000 ways for us to be taxed with the 82,000 page tax code.
You and I both know that the current tax code is filled with sneaks in taxes and we don't even know how we have been taxed. I'm not worried about that. And the other reason I'm not worried about it, is that the American people, they get it. They are chanting 9-9-9 which means that if bureaucrats and politicians want to try to raise it without a very compelling reason, I believe that the American public is going to hold their feet to the fire. I'm not worried about it.
HANNITY: All right. Now, you came out recently with an ad that, we call it the smoking ad, and it's gotten a lot of play all over the media. We played it last night on this program. And frankly, I can't figure out the ad, so I want to run it and then hopefully, you can explained to me what this ad is about. Pretty funny ad, but I want to give you a chance to respond.
(BEGIN CAMPAIGN VIDEO)
MARK BLOCK, CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR HERMAN CAIN: I really believe that Herman Cain will put united back in the United States of America, and if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be here. We've run a campaign like nobody has ever seen. But then American has never seen a candidate like Herman Cain. We need you to get involved because together we can do this. We can take this country back.
("I AM AMERICA" PLAYING)
(END CAMPAIGN VIDEO)
HANNITY: All right. That smile at the end. All right. Explain that ad to us.
CAIN: All right. We have a saying in my campaign, Sean, let Herman be Herman. This is the attitude that I have when I do debates, this is the attitude I have when I do interviews, let Herman be Herman. Mark Block is my chief of staff. And we also say, let Mark be Mark. Mark happens to be a smoker. He knows it's a bad habit but he smokes. And so, we weren't trying to send any subliminal message whatsoever. Many of us found it hilarious because we know Mark Block. So there was no hidden message there other than we were in Vegas and we wanted to put something new out on the Internet because I was inundated with other requests, and I trusted Mark Block, which I still do, and I thought he did a great job with the ad.
The person who did the ad for us added that little thing at the end quite frankly that, as you say has caused all of the stir. But that was no hidden message other than Mark Block saying, America has never seen another candidate like Herman Cain.
HANNITY: All right. Herman, they are attacking you on paying your taxes, on the issue of abortion, in foreign policy. When we come back, we're going to continue with Herman Cain right after this break as a special edition of "Hannity" continues tonight from Columbus, Ohio.
HANNITY: And welcome back to this special edition of "Hannity." We are live and we're in Columbus, Ohio. We continue now with Republican presidential candidate, the one and only Herman Cain.
All right. You had stage four cancer, I believe that the year was back in 2006. You had extensive treatment for this. And I thought this was a pretty cheap shot that during the time you were getting your cancer treatment you might have missed a state tax payment, which by the way I believe you fixed the next year. Now I guess when you rise to the top, you have that bulls eye on your back, and this has now come up as an issue. What do you say to people that are criticizing you for that?
CAIN: Well, people --, you are absolutely right, Sean, 2006, I was trying to stay alive. I only had a 30 percent chance of survival. The good news is I have now been totally cancer free for five years. And, yes, we may have missed the filing of one of the states, and they filed a lien, but we took care of it.
What I have to say to people that have to dig that deep in order to find something negative to say about Herman Cain, it simply says that my message is resonating, that the people are connective with me and my message in this campaign. If they have to dig that deep to try to come up with something negative, Sean, then we don't have anything to worry about to be perfect -- with you.
And as you know, it's only going to get worse because of those poll numbers that you referred to earlier. It's only going to get worse. And I'm just going to warn listeners and viewers now, watch out, it's going to get worse. And the thing that we've concluded, and you know this, some stuff they are going to just make up because they are trying to distract us from our message, they are trying to distract us from our strategy, but we aren't going to be distracted. We are going to stay on message and we are going to continue this campaign the way we have laid it out because it's working. The American people are connecting.
HANNITY: You know, in the last debate, I mean, it's gotten so insane right now that they actually, you know, were saying that Rick Perry made a big mistake because he called you brother in that debate. And, you know, I spoke with you about it, and the first thing you did is what you are doing now, you laughed. What is your reaction to that?
CAIN: My reaction is, you know, for them to try and figure out whether there is some hidden meaning. I even had a reporter asked me, were you offended by that? No. Rick Perry is a Christian brother and Rick Perry is someone that I respect. I'm not offended that somebody calls me brother. But this is how desperate some reporters, not all -- there are a lot of good reporters out there -- this is how some desperate reporters are, Sean, to try to come up with that breakthrough story, of that breakthrough headline.
Well, let me tell you little secret, you're not going to find that breakthrough story trying to find something that's going to offend Herman Cain, it takes a lot more than that to offend me or to get me upset.
HANNITY: All right. Let me go to the issue of abortion. You gave two interviews in two days, and there's been a lot of questions raise. And we had Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on last night and she says, your position on abortion is inconsistent. I want to give you a chance tonight to clarify it. Here are the two instances we are talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: If one of your female children, grandchildren, was raped, you would honestly want her to bring up that baby as her own?
CAIN: You are mixing two things here, Piers.
CAIN: You are mixing two things.
MORGAN: But that's what it comes down to.
CAIN: No, what it comes down to it's not the government's role or anybody else's role to make that decision. It ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me as president.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But I guess the question is, do you believe that abortion should be legal in this country for families who want to make that decision?
CAIN: No, no, no, I do not believe abortion should be legal in this country if that's the question.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HANNITY: I want to give you a chance to clarify. Does that mean in the cases of rape, incest, et cetera, mother's life, do you make any exceptions?
CAIN: Let me go back to this, Sean. I am and have always been pro-life from conception. That piece was totally taken out of concept. It's interesting that they didn't go back to the other 100 interviews that are on tape somewhere that says that I am consistently pro-life from conception. It was taken out of context, and because in that piece right there, they didn't show the first part, I used the word "choice" talking about a specific situation that he was trying to pigeon me hole on. That's what they used to try and come after me. I am pro-life from conception, end of story.
HANNITY: Yes. All right. Let me ask you, now that your economic plan has been resonating, it seems, and I have been reading that the other candidates in this race now think that there might be a weakness in terms of your foreign policy experience. You worked for Pillsbury, you worked for Coke, you worked for Burger King, you worked for Godfather's Pizza. You've done a lot of economic turnarounds, big situations on the economy, your plan has obviously resonated. You said in one interview, you weren't sure what the right of return was. Do you feel you have the experience in foreign policy considering that has not been your professional area of expertise? And what do you say to those critics?
CAIN: To those critics, I would say to them, do you think I'm dumb enough not to study up on these issues? I have been studying on these issues for months. I can now explain right of return to any reporter better than they understand right of return because you know, you get caught off guard, you go to school and you learn. So, I challenge them to try to explain that to me.
Secondly, I have been consulting with former ambassadors, former national security advisers, I have been consulting with a number of experts to get up to speed on some of the situations we have around the world. So, I haven't been just sitting still. And I challenge anybody to say that I wouldn't know how to approach foreign policy because, unlike some of the other people, I at least have a foreign policy philosophy, which is an extension of the Reagan philosophy. Peace through strength, and my philosophy is peace through strength and clarity. I believe that we need to clarify who our friends are. We need to clarify who our enemies are, so we can stop giving money to our enemies and we can tell the world who our friends are that we are going to stand with, like the country of Israel.
All of the details for each individual situation, we've got plenty of experts. But what a leader must do is to be able to state some fundamental principles, and a fundamental philosophy. Listen to the input and then make judgments. So, I haven't been just sitting still and not going to school since they have been trying to paint me as not having foreign policy experience.
HANNITY: All right. Have you thought of who you might want to choose as your vice president should you win the nomination?
CAIN: Well, yes, let's say that I have had a few thoughts about that. But it is still too early to mention any names, Sean. But I have -- let's just say, the short list is getting shorter.
HANNITY: OK. You don't want to share maybe like two or three or four with us?
CAIN: No, Sean.
HANNITY: I'm trying. It's my job, Herman.
HERMAN: I know it's your job but you aren't going to get me in trouble again. So, I'm going to leave it right there. Let's just say the short list is getting shorter, but I've got to tell you that's some very good folk that I would be proud to work with.
HANNITY: All right. Herman Cain, it's always good to see you. Thanks for being with us.
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