ATLANTA — Republican Herman Cain said God convinced him to enter the race for president, comparing himself to Moses: "'You've got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?'"
The Georgia business executive played up his faith Saturday after battling sexual harassment allegations for two weeks, trying to shift the conversation to religion, an issue vital to conservative Republicans, especially in the South.
In a speech Saturday to a national meeting of young Republicans, Cain said the Lord persuaded him after much prayer.
"That's when I prayed and prayed and prayed. I'm a man of faith – I had to do a lot of praying for this one, more praying than I've ever done before in my life," Cain said. "And when I finally realized that it was God saying that this is what I needed to do, I was like Moses. 'You've got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?'"
Once he made the decision, Cain said, he did not look back.
Four women have now accused Cain of sexually harassing them when he led the National Restaurant Association more than a decade ago. Cain, who has denied wrongdoing, was silent about the allegations and did not take reporters' questions.
Cain isn't the first to say God prodded him toward a campaign. Texas Gov. Rick Perry's wife, Anita, has said she felt God was speaking to her about the race, adding that her husband needed to see a "burning bush," a Biblical reference to God's first appearance to Moses.
During his speech, Cain also criticized President Barack Obama for canceling the space shuttle program – a decision actually made by President George W. Bush – as NASA shifts its focus on travel farther from Earth's orbit.
"I can tell you that as president of the United States, we are not going to bum a ride to outer space with Russia," Cain said to loud applause. "We're going to regain our rightful place in terms of technology, space technology."
Cain was talking about U.S. plans, now that the space shuttle is retired, to use Russian rockets to send astronauts to the International Space Station. In the meantime, NASA is focused on explorations deeper in space.
It was Bush who decided in 2004 to retire the space shuttle program. The Republican president still supported sending astronauts to the moon and Mars.
Obama, once in office, dropped the goal of a moon mission. Instead, NASA has plans to build a giant rocket capable of sending astronauts to an asteroid and eventually Mars. It wants to outsource to private companies the task of ferrying astronauts and cargo to the space station – a job previously performed by the space shuttle.
Until private companies are ready, NASA will keep buying seats on Russian Soyuz capsules to get astronauts to the space station. The cost per person to fly on a Soyuz is expected to rise from $56 million to $63 million, which is still cheaper than flying on the shuttle.
Cain spoke in advance of a Republican debate Saturday in South Carolina focused on foreign policy.
Ray Henry can be reached at . http://www.twitter.com/rhenryAP