Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and 2012 presidential also-ran, went to Tampa to take part in a unity rally on Sunday. TIME caught up with him to chat about the Republican ticket, what he’s doing in Florida and, of course, pizza.
What are you trying to achieve in Tampa?
I’m trying to send a message of unity. The fact that I didn’t get the nomination — I’m basically trying to tell people it’s not about me, it’s not about them. It’s about defeating Barack Obama. Mitt Romney is the nominee and Paul Ryan is his running mate. I’m here to show support for the ticket and the mission.
What do you think about Ryan’s controversial plan for changing Medicare?
I don’t think his plan is controversial at all. Ryan’s plan clearly lays out an approach that will save Medicare. That’s what I admire most about Mitt Romney making the decision that he did to select Ryan, because he knew that it was going to put the Medicare debate front and center. If we don’t change anything, it’s going to bankrupt itself.
Have you and Romney had contact since you suspended your campaign?
We have chatted about, No. 1, what my interests are going forward [in terms of being part of his Administration]. And I said, “Governor Romney, with all due respect, I’m not lookin’ for a job. I don’t want to be your VP pick, and I don’t want to be a Cabinet member. Because I’ve got other things in my career that I’m interested in doing.”
Did he ask you about those posts in particular?
No. I just volunteered that information. I don’t know what he was thinking … No 2., I gave him some advice on sharpening his message. And he has taken a lot of that advice. Last week he rolled out his energy policy. I loved it. It was a five-point plan. And he even said to me, “Notice, I’m starting to use a number-point plan.”
Do you have any regrets about initially endorsing Newt Gingrich?
No. The process may not be perfect, but it is what it is. I don’t regret endorsing Newt Gingrich when I endorsed him, based upon what I knew at that time, based on the relationship that I had with Newt. I happen to have had a much closer relationship with Newt Gingrich, so that was part of my consideration. But then once Newt dropped out of the race, I had no problem endorsing Governor Romney because he was going to be the presumptive nominee.
What is your favorite moment from the campaign?
My favorite moment was after I won the Florida [straw poll]. It shocked the political world. It shocked everybody.
Obviously, things were tough before you suspended the campaign. Was that hard on you?
I expected it to be tough. I expected it to be a lot of work. What I did not expect is that people who were threatened by me would lie and would get other people to lie to get me out of the race.
Back to this idea of unity. A poll recently showed that Romney had zero support among African Americans. What is your response to that?
First of all, I don’t believe that poll. Polls can be manipulated. Secondly, I’m not a zero. All of my black friends that are conservatives, they’re not a zero … You have a lot of black conservatives out there who aren’t standing on a stage declaring their conservatism. Those polls are not capturing the sentiment of a lot of black Americans.
One thing the media gave you a lot of heat about was your lack of foreign policy qualifications. Does Romney have enough foreign policy experience to become President?
He has more foreign policy experience in his little finger than Barack Obama has learned in 3½ years.
What experience is that?
It’s based upon the fact that he reads and he listens. He has foreign policy people around him. But he doesn’t need to tout his foreign policy experience. That’s another attempt on the part of the mainstream media to suck him into talking about stuff that isn’t the priority. The three priorities that he’s focused on — and I did give him some suggestions on this — are the economy, energy and national security. And he’s strong on national security. You need to be stronger on national security than you need to be on foreign policy.
Is it worse to imagine a world without pizza or one in which Obama gets a second term?
It’s worse to imagine a world with Obama getting a second term than it is to imagine a world without pizza. Because with Obama in a second term, there will be no pizza. For anyone.