GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain was warmly received Friday at the conservative Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., and he refused to engage in criticism of fellow candidate Mitt Romney's religious beliefs.
The New York Times reports that Cain received a "rousing ovation" during his Values Voter Summit speech. The former Godfather's Pizza CEO delivered some memorable lines during his remarks, saying that "America wants to raise some Cain!" Per the Times:
“Why are you running for president? To be president!” Mr. Cain thundered in his booming baritone, which was playfully sarcastic at times.
“What did I miss? I’m not running to go to Disneyland. America has problems. I’m a problem solver. That’s why I’m running.”
Cain has recently seen an increase in his campaign's momentum. Per Politico, Cain "continues to surge" with a new poll in New Hampshire showing him with 12 percent support in the Granite State. Cain's finish in the poll puts him second only to Romney. The former Massachusetts governor garnered 37 percent support in the same poll.
CNN spoke with Cain Friday at the Washington event to get his thoughts on a controversial statement made by a supporter of Texas Governor and fellow GOP contender Rick Perry. Perry also spoke at the Values Voter Summit where he was introduced by Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. HuffPost's Jon Ward reports that Jeffress had some harsh words about Mitt Romney's religious beliefs, calling the Mormon church, of which Romney is a member, "a cult." From Ward:
Jeffress also slyly played the Mormon card, hinting to the audience that because Romney is not an evangelical Christian -- he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- he is not as desirable a candidate for religious conservatives.
Ward explains that Perry's campaign quickly distanced itself from Jeffress' "cult" comment:
Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner told The Huffington Post, "The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult," and said he was unaware of any official endorsement from Jeffress. Miner also stated that event organizers chose Jeffress to give the introduction, the campaign did not.
Cain, speaking to CNN Political Correspondent Jim Acosta, said that he had "no comment" on Jeffress' statement. From CNN:
HERMAN CAIN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some - some - no comment. Some people feel that way. You know, I respect - I respect everybody's, you know, religious beliefs and Mormonism's been around a long time. So no comment. Not going to get into that.
ACOSTA: Do you think that's appropriate to say?
CAIN: I don't think it's appropriate to say, but he said it. OK? He said it, but I don't want to get into that. I want to focus on growing the economy, creating jobs.
Jeffress also spoke to Acosta and stood behind his "cult" comment. "That's been the historic position of evangelical Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult," said Jeffress.
Watch CNN's interview with Jeffress below: