HARRIMAN, Tenn. – Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain said Saturday he'll go toe-to-toe with Rick Perry for the GOP primary's critical evangelical vote.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Cain said the Texas governor "thought he had carved out that niche, when he didn't own that niche by himself."
"People are realizing that he is not the only Christian conservative in this race," Cain told The AP at a campaign stop in Harriman, Tenn., where he spoke before close to 1,000 tea party activists.
"You know, I don't wear my Christian faith, which has been my faith since I was 10 years old, on my forehead," Cain said. "But people can see it on my website and when they read my credentials they can see I'm a staunch Christian conservative, and they are saying 'wait a minute.'''.
The Georgia businessman drew rousing applause at a recent Values Voters Summit in Washington. His stump speeches are marked by references to God and at one recent campaign rally in rural Tennessee before a socially conservative crowd by singing a hymn.
Perry has a strong track record among religious, voters organizing a rally just before entering the race for the White House that drew 30,000 people.
Religious voters hold sway in choosing the Republican nominee, especially in some early states like Iowa and South Carolina.
Cain was barnstorming across Tennessee Saturday, completing a bus tour. Polls show him vaulting to the top tier of the GOP contest.
But his campaign finance reports for the most recent quarter show him trailing well behind Perry and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who've raised $17 and $14 million respectively Cain says he's raised $2.8 million and the report will show he has $1.3 million cash on hand. Through the end of September, Cain has loaned his campaign $675,000, with most of it taken out during the spring.
But Cain said that in the two weeks since the reporting period closed Sept. 30 he's raised another $2 million as his poll numbers have climbed,
"We don't know if it will keep up at that pace, but we're going to try to keep up a healthy pace," he said.
Cain also said he will attend the dedication of a memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall in Washington. Cain said he'll be a guest of Alveda King, the civil rights pioneer's niece and an anti-abortion activist. Cain called King, "one of my personal heroes."
Democratic President Barack Obama, the man Cain wants to replace in the White House, is set to address Sunday's event.
Cain has drawn criticism from, some in the black community for his views on race.
At a campaign stop Saturday Cain accused liberals of playing the race card "until it's the joker in the deck."
"America isn't worried about color. It's worried about content, character and ideas," he said. "It ain't about race."