(AP/The Huffington Post) — Herman Cain has risen fast. Now the question is: Will he fall?
As Republican presidential hopefuls were preparing for a debate here Tuesday night, Cain has been facing more and more intense scrutiny as his poll numbers have jumped upward.
Now that he's in the national spotlight, he's already had to apologize for comments he made over the weekend calling for an electric fence on the Southern border with Mexico.
At a campaign stop Monday in Arizona, Cain appeared with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an aggressive anti-immigration proponent. "It was a joke," Cain said emphatically during a news conference. "I apologize if I offended anyone. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa."
However, the Phoenix New Times, reports:
Only, it might not be a joke, he later said, before finally saying he just doesn't want to offend anyone.
"I don't like to offend anyone...however, I don't apologize for using a combination of a fence. And it might be electrified -- I'm not walking away from that," Cain backtracked. "I just don't want to offend anybody. It was a joke to the extent in the context of the views of that speech, but in terms of what we need to do, I fully intend to do so because I'm more sensitive to our citizens being hurt."
Cain told an audience in Tennessee on Saturday that the fence is "going to be electrified. And there is going to be a sign on the other side that says, `It will kill you.'"
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas), who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, took issue with the presidential contender's remarks. "Words have consequences, both in shaping ideas and inspiring actions. Whether or not he made his comments in jest, Mr. Cain's words show a lack of understanding of the immigration issues our country is facing and a staggering lack of sensitivity," he said.
Immigration already has flared on the campaign trail -- and contributed to the sinking of another fast-rising GOP candidate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has struggled to explain why he signed a law giving in-state tuition breaks to undocumented immigrants at Texas universities. When he first entered the race, he was at or near the top of many national polls. He's fallen back since, and Cain has emerged as the more popular alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Cain raised eyebrows over the summer with remarks he made on the issue of border security during a stop in Iowa. ThinkProgrses relays what the presidential hopeful had to say:
I just got back from China. Ever heard of the Great Wall of China? It looks pretty sturdy. And that sucker is real high. I think we can build one if we want to! We have put a man on the moon, we can build a fence! Now, my fence might be part Great Wall and part electrical technology...It will be a twenty foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top, and on this side of the fence, I'll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!
Shortly after, Cain was asked about his comments in an interview with New York Times Magazine.
You said of the Great Wall of China, "I think we could build one" as a solution to our immigration problems. Are you concerned that as many as three million Chinese died building it?
[Cain:] My point was, if they could build that wall centuries ago without bulldozers, we can secure the border today. It could be a combination of walls and high-tech equipment. Now, if accidents happen, that's one thing. But I think we can improve upon that ratio of three million people dying.
Somos Republicans, a national pro-immigration organization, called for Cain to abandon his presidential campaign over his posture toward the issue over the summer.