CHICAGO, IL – “We need a leader, not a reader!” Herman Cain exclaimed today at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, stating that there are plenty of foreign policy experts out there – in other words, he doesn’t need to be one himself.
And while that zinger directed at president Obama bore an amusing resemblance to the fictional President Schwarzenegger’s declaration that “I was elected to lead not to read” in the 2007 Simpsons Movie, the past month has seen Cain hurt cause with a series of meatier foreign policy blunders.
It was a weak spot that was on full display Wednesday during a swing through South Florida.
Cain has built his campaign around his plans for the economy and his past as a businessman. But his lack of foreign policy experience has been on display in recent weeks. Exhibits one was a stumbling reply last week to a straightforward question about the Obama administration’s response to the Libyan uprising. Earlier, Cain made light of his lack of foreign policy knowledge when he pointed out that he didn’t know the name of the president of “Uzbeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan,”
But his visit to the Cuban hotbed of Miami could pose real problems in the important conservative Latino community in Florida. On Wednesday morning at the Claude & Mildred Pepper Center in Sweetwater, the crowd implored him to talk about Cuba.
“What about Cuba?” Cain replied. “One of my principles is go to the source closest to the problem, you will find the solution… I want to get from Cuban leaders a solution of what we should do.”
“I don’t want to take the pressure off. I want to put more pressure on,” he said. “Viva Cuba libre!”
According to Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo, Cain “seemed to know little about Cuba” and “seemed stumped” about a US policy that allows Cuban immigrants to remain in this country once they set foot on land here.
During a stop at the famous Versailles restaurant in Little Havana, Cain drank a coffee and ate some croquetas.
“How do you say ‘delicious’ in Cuban?” he asked. In Cuba the language is Spanish.
The Cuban vote could prove crucial in Florida, a key state both in the GOP primary and the general election. Around 540,000 of Florida’s 1.5 million Latino voters are of Cuban origin, a group mostly based near Miami. Florida is set to vote fourth in the primary, starting in late January after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have all had their turn. The Sunshine State has already hosted two GOP debates this fall and it will be the site of the party’s 2012 convention in Tampa and the final presidential debate next year, set for Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton.
According to a Nov. 7 Quinnipiac poll from Florida, Cain held 27 percent support there, ahead of Mitt Romney at 21 percent and Newt Gingrich at 17 percent, but Cain’s support has declined after sexual harassment allegations were leveled at him in late October. In the wake of some of his recent foreign policy gaffes, it’s safe to say those comments aren’t helping him any, either.
Matthew Jaffe is covering the 2012 campaign for ABC News and Univision.