Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain received three standing ovations Wednesday morning as he explained his campaign to an audience of more than 400 gathered by the influential Northern Virginia Technology Council.
The former pizza company executive, who now leads the pack in several polls, spoke to the association of Northern Virginia tech executives, which tends to support Republican candidates, laying out his background, his plans for the economy and his campaign.
“The first phase is they ignore you. The second phase is they ridicule you. The third phase is they try to destroy you. Well, we got a little bit of that this week.”
Calling himself an "unconventional candidate," Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO said, "we are surprised that we are doing so well so fast." He added: "There is a force at work. It is the voice of the people that has propelled this campaign."
Cain then talked to the audience, that was overwhelmingly male, about three topics -- the campaign, technology and his plans for the economy, blending in biographical details of his life.
- Cain graduated from Morehouse College, an historically black college, with a degree in mathematics. He then earned a master's degree in computer science. He is the father of three adult children and is a grandfather. He said his mother was a domestic worker and his father a chauffeur.
- He gave his first speech April 15, 2009, at a tea party rally in Las Vegas. He said he decided to run for president the day President Barack Obama signed the new healthcare bill into law.
- "Without technology, I wouldn't be standing here," he said, explaining that voters can now "do their own fact-finding" about candidates. "I believe we are missing some opportunities in technology and government." He specifically called for upgrading and doubling the size of the U.S. Navy's Aegis surface combat system.
He again explained his 9-9-9 flat tax plan, which calls for a nine percent income tax, a nine percent business tax and a nine percent sales tax.
"We need to throw out the current tax code," Cain said to hurrahs from many in the audience.
"No more entitlement programs coming out of Washington, D.C., under a Cain administration," he said.
The talk began and ended with standing ovations from the audience then a third ovation at the end of a short Q&A session.
Reaction from some in the audience:
Jay Wright, McLean: 'He's aligned to what I'm looking for -- bringing back a moral culture. I think these are words of wisdom that inspire people."
Kurt Einwaechter, a Cisco executive who said he came "to get a better sense of why he's running and his core tenets. I thought he sounded very good" but he wanted to see the details of Cain's plans.
Doug McHitt, who lives in Annapolis and works in Maryland: "I wanted to see the candidate, the person and get a sense of who he is as a person. He's much more multi-dimensional and has a broader understanding of the economy that the way he's portrayed."
Sue Keil, an investment banker in McLean: "I'm looking for a change in the leadership of the country. I always thought a business leader would make a good leader for the country. With the current economic situation we need some radical change."
Cory Molina, who works for a risk and building consulting firm in McLean: "I wanted to hear Cain's views but mainly this is where I meet my clients. Here there is a a cobweb of connections."