Businessman Herman Cain blamed “false accusations” and “confusion” about his positions on abortion and foreign policy for his drop in polls in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
“I’ve been real clear” on policy questions, Cain said yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “But a lot of confusion has been thrown my way and that’s part of the -- part of politics, as they say.”
Cain, the 65-year-old former Godfather’s Pizza chairman once viewed as a front-runner, slipped to third place in a national Republican presidential poll last week by Quinnipiac University. The poll showed Cain with 14 percent of the vote, trailing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Cain’s videotaped stumble over a question about Libya went viral on the Internet, and he faced allegations that he sexually harassed women while serving as head of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. Cain has denied all the accusations as baseless.
Republican candidate Jon Huntsman, 51, acknowledging himself an “underdog” in the New Hampshire primary, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he thinks people are “finally” giving his candidacy a first look there. “I like our position,” he said.
Cain and several members of Congress also debated the prospects of an extension of a federal payroll tax cut, due to expire at the end of this year.
‘Out of Context’
Cain said his statements about abortion during an Oct. 19 CNN interview had been “taken out of context.”
During that interview, he said some abortion-related decisions should be made by families. “Whatever they decide, they decide,” he said in the interview. “The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions.”
Yesterday, he said he “absolutely” believes abortion should be illegal and that his discussion of a “highly hypothetical situation” was taken out of context. Still, he said he had made a “poor choice of words in retrospect.”
Cain also said he has been “real clear about how I disagree with President Barack Obama on the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“In terms of the mechanics of the campaign, nothing has gone wrong,” Cain said, though he added, “some people are heavily influenced by perception more so than reality.”
The U.S. payroll tax cut is set to expire on Dec. 31, and Senate leaders have said that chamber may vote on an extension of the cut this week.
“The payroll tax holiday has not stimulated job creation,” Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “We don’t think that is a good way to do it.”
Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who, like Kyl, was a member of the congressional supercommittee that failed to come up with a deficit-cutting plan last week, spoke more optimistically on ABC’s “This Week.”
“We’ll take that up, and I think probably some package of that with other features might very well pass,” Toomey said.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the payroll tax cut for “working families” should be extended “by imposing a slight increase on the taxes of the wealthiest people.”
Social Security Tax
The Social Security portion of payroll taxes, which will be levied on the first $110,100 of income in 2012, is split between employees and employers. Each side pays 6.2 percent of wages. For 2011, the Social Security payroll tax for employees was lowered to 4.2 percent. A worker earning $50,000 a year who is paid biweekly has been saving $38.46 in each paycheck.
At a minimum, Obama wants to see the current tax cut for employees extended for 2012. He also has called on Congress to reduce the payroll levy to 3.1 percent for employees and employers.
Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said, “It’s hard to believe Republicans would oppose” a payroll tax holiday, which “would give middle class families about a thousand dollars extra in their pockets,” while they are pushing cuts for the wealthy.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Schumer said that if Republicans want to discuss options on how to pay for the break, Democrats would be open to hearing their ideas.
In addition to the payroll tax cut, lawmakers must decide whether to extend expanded unemployment benefits and a package of miscellaneous tax breaks that also expire at the end of the year.
Cain said he could support extending the payroll tax cut, though he also said it hadn’t done “any good” so far and was a “thimble of water in the ocean” in terms of improving the U.S. economy.
The Republican candidate said he opposed extending long-term unemployment benefits, also due to expire. “It’s unfortunate that people are unemployed,” he said, adding that a better way to put “fuel in the engine” would be to cut individual and corporate income tax rates.
With the unemployment rate stuck at 9 percent, income gains have been slowing as Americans pulled back on spending in October. Consumer purchases, which account for 70 percent of the economy, increased 0.1 percent after a 0.7 percent gain in September, Commerce Department figures showed.
Gross domestic income, or the money earned by people, businesses and government agencies, rose at an average annual rate of 2.8 percent from April through September, down from a 4.3 percent rate in the previous six months, according to the Commerce Department.
U.S. stocks tumbled last week in the worst Thanksgiving-week loss for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since 1932. The S&P 500 slid 4.7 percent to 1,158.67, closing at the lowest level since Oct. 7. The Dow fell 564.38 points, or 4.8 percent, to 11,231.78 last week.