Is Herman Cain Ready for Frontrunner Status?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," October 28, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MONICA CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: It's been a week to remember for the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. As for latest Fox News poll shows Cain with a four-point lead over his closest rival, Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich is still in the fight with 12 percent of the vote. Rick Perry has dropped to fourth with 10 percent and Ron Paul received nine percent. Despite the surge to the top of the Republican field, Herman Cain is still reluctant to call himself the front-runner. Take a look.


HERMAN CAIN, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would say that I am one of front runners because as you know, if you were then, you know, three, four, even five points that can change next week from one polls to another. So, I don't see myself as a clear front runner because I don't have a double digit lead. But I would say that I'm right up there in the pack.


CROWLEY: Well, if a double digital lead is required to achieve front-runner status, then former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is a mega frontrunner in the key primary state of New Hampshire. The latest Rasmussen poll shows Romney with 41 percent of the vote to Cain's 17 percent. And Ron Paul in third with 11. Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman round out the top five. So, with Romney boasting a clear lead in New Hampshire, just how much important are the Iowa caucuses for the other candidates?

Here with an analysis are the author of "Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate," Fox News analyst, Juan Williams is here, along with the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed.

Gentlemen, great to see you.


JUAN WILLIAMS, AUTHOR, "MUZZLED": Good to see you, Monica.

CROWLEY: OK, Ralph. I want to begin with you, because something really struck me over the last week or so and that is that Herman Cain, now that he is the front-runner in a lot of these polls is getting roundly mocked. The left is trying to diminish him. Delegitimize him, marginalize him. And it occurred to me that this is the same thing that happened to Sarah Palin. This week we saw the Washington Post begin this routine with Senator Marco Rubio. And the thing that all three of them have in common is that they represent existential threats to liberalism. You've got a black man, you've got a conservative woman, you've got a conservative Latino. And that if any of those three were to gain real traction with the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party would in essence be over.

So, the left is really on this mission to destroy them and now it's Herman Cain's turn. How do you think he is handling his turn in the spotlight being right there in the crosshairs of the left?

REED: Well, first of all, Monica. I think you really nailed it. I think if you go back and you look at the 2008 election results, Barack Obama got about the same percentage of the white vote that Al Gore did in his losing effort against George W. Bush in 2000 about 42 percent. The thing that really drove that Obama landslide was he was able to win 98 percent of the African-American vote and he was able to win 70 percent of the Hispanic vote. If you had a Cain-Rubio ticket, and I know I'm getting ahead of myself because we haven't had any votes yet. But if you had an African-American or a Latino of a Cain or a Rubio type credentials on the ticket, it is without question a dagger aimed at the heart of the electoral strategy of the Democrats.

And I think, they've even got a bigger problem, Monica in this respect. Herman Cain is the personification of the American dream. This is a man who grew up in the city of Atlanta in the shadow of segregation. He was the first member of his family to go to college. He rose through the ranks of American business in the corporate world to great success. He has lived the American dream and Obama argues that it is America's sins and shortcomings that we need to focus on, and he goes around the world and apologizes for America, Cain embraces everything that America stands for.

CROWLEY: And that is what makes him incredibly powerful, Juan. You know, this week, the Cain campaign said that they were going to try to slow the campaign down a little bit. That they wanted him to see more on message, they wanted the campaign to grow more disciplined. And it calls to mind the last scene in the movie of "The Candidate" with Robert Redford who sort of runs this quixotic campaign and he wins. And at the end of the movie, sort of looks at the stop strategist and he says, now what do I do?

And I think that Cain campaign now is, yes, they are looking at these numbers state by state. He is either tied with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney may be slightly ahead. In New Hampshire, Romney does have a commanding lead. But Cain is right there. And I'm wondering if the campaign now, the Cain campaign is pulling back a little bit to try to make sure that Cain is focused, that there are no more gaffes. Does that work for him or does that work against him because he is non-traditional candidate, so if he starts playing it safe, does that hurt him?

WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, look, Herman Cain is the biggest, he may be the only, but he is certainly the biggest asset of the Cain campaign. So, pulling him back is not going to make sense. I mean, he has got to be out there. He has got to be the charmer, the person that Ralph was just talking about who is just, you know, if you meet Herman Cain, you will like Herman Cain. There is just no getting away from it. And so, if you have this guy who presents himself as an authentic conservative, you want to make sure that conservative audiences are hearing from Herman Cain and do not view him as someone who is just a blip on the screen or the temporary alternative to Mitt Romney that they really come to know him.

Now, the problem has been one, money. He doesn't have the money. Certainly -- we talked about the big poll number difference in a state like New Hampshire. But you go anywhere, there is no comparing, Mitt Romney's money to Herman Cain's money. Mitt Romney is a superpower when it comes to money. And he has money, 30 plus million on him. So that he is going to be able to bombard and shape Herman Cain's image of Herman Cain if not out there introducing himself and presenting himself as a different kind of conservative than Mitt Romney.

And, you know, I would just add to what you and Ralph have been saying, Monica, that what strikes me is that the Republican establishment for the last ten days has been pointing out their problems with Herman Cain, saying the 9-9-9 plan is going to raise your taxes, he's not thought through his position on abortion, he's not thought through his position with regard to foreign policy. But it doesn't seem to matter because Herman Cain comes back and says, you know, I'm me, I'm going to learn. I'm different than the rest of these guys. And the American people, but specifically the Republican primary audience, a conservative audience says we like him and we trust him. And we don't think he's a flip-flopper, he's an authentic conservative, that is the message.

CROWLEY: And not Washington, and not a professional politician which is his big strength.

Ralph, when you look at the field as its currently made up, do you see any real opportunity for anybody else to emerge as the conservative alternative to Romney or to Cain if there are some misgivings about Cain when they finally go into the ballot box, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, any of those folks have a real shot of getting up here?

REED: Yes. I think so, Monica. This is still very fluid. It's a highly volatile race. Unlike any I've seen in my career, frankly. If you look at some of this polling. Even the polls you cited at the top of the show, if you dig a little deeper in the cross tabs, up to half of these voters say they haven't fully made up their minds, 80 percent in some of these polls say they could change their mind. We had an event Saturday night in Des Moines, Iowa, with the Faith and Freedom Coalition and we had all the candidates there. Save Romney and Huntsman. And I'll tell you, I thought Rick Perry did a very good job. I thought Newt Gingrich did a very good job. Perry is going to have money, I think he keep an eye on him. I think he keep an eye on Newt, I think in Iowa, you keep an eye on Santorum and Michele Bachmann.

But look, if you look at this electorate, those of us who know Herman are not surprised that he is where he is. This electorate, meaning the Republican presidential primary electorate, is 66 to 70 percent self identified conservative. It's about 45 percent self-identified evangelical and about half of them are Tea Party members.

So, what Herman is doing is he is over performing among conservatives, self-identified evangelicals. That is 60 percent of the vote in Iowa, about half the vote in South Carolina and of course among Tea Party members where he leads Romney by about 32 to 18.

The danger for Romney is when this field begins to winnow after the first couple of primaries, Iowa and New Hampshire, he may end up mono to mono with somebody and he's got to do better than he's doing right now among evangelicals and conservatives.

CROWLEY: Very fluid situation. And we talk about these polls but not a single Republican has voted yet. So, anything could happen.

Ralph, Juan, great to see you guys. Thank you.

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