TODAY   |  July 04, 2011

Republican presidential hopefuls continue strong push

NBC’s Kristen Welker reports that republican presidential candidates have been hard at work making their push towards the White House this weekend and TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie talks with candidate Herman Cain, who’s climbed to third place in a recent Iowa poll.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> up for a busy week ahead in the nation's capital. the senate was supposed to be on break this week, but instead, lawmakers will be back in session to deal with the looming debt crisis. this as republican presidential hopefuls hit the campaign trail over the weekend. kristen welker is at the white house for us this morning. kristen , good morning.

>> good morning to you, savannah. while gop candidates were in high gear this holiday weekend and so were some lawmakers talking about the debt ceiling on this sunday talk shows, to name one, senator john cornyn said there might be room to revise the tax code . still, he insisted no new taxes. the president back from a july 4th weekend at camp david and getting ready for fomore fireworks on capitol hill . senators have given up their holiday week to work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling. republicans insisting any agreement cannot include tax increases.

>> but the principle of not raising taxes is something that we campaigned on last november, and the results of the election was the american people didn't want their taxes raised.

>> reporter: the fiery rhetoric comes after the president last week accused lawmakers of not working hard enough to resolve the issue and arguing any deal should include a repeal of tax breaks for big businesses.

>> if everybody else is willing to take on their sacred cows , i think it would be hard for the republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important.

>> reporter: republican senator john cornyn fired back.

>> what i'm concerned about is the president by not seriously putting a proposal forward but rather just criticizing those who have, will run it up against the deadline.

>> reporter: meanwhile the people vying for the president's jobber were also hard at work this weekend. former utah governor jon huntsman barn stormed in new hampshire, which hosts the nation's first primary. minnesota representative michele bachmann was out in full force in iowa, six weeks ahead of the state's straw poll . she is running neck and neck with presumed front runner mitt romney , according to a recent state poll, and this weekend she tried to build on that momentum. lesser known candidate businessman herman cain , also tried to shore up support in the hawk why state, stumping at a godfather pizza, the company he used to run. the seoul african-american gop candidate recently released this video touting his tea party credentials.

>> i was in a tea party before it was cool.

>> reporter: in ohio over the weekend, cain said he's gaining traction.

>> if you average out all of the polls that i'm in third place behind mitt romney and michele bachmann , and they have twice the name id, i think i have the ball because as my name iid spreads, i have nowhere to go but up.

>> even former president bill clinton is weighing in saying he likes jon huntsman . he believes he's authentic. he says mitt romney is much improved from his last run. and he says michele bachmann is a stronger candidate than he thought would be, still, he believes the president will be re-elected. as for the president and lawmakers, they will get back to work on the debt ceiling tomorrow.

>> kristen welker at the white house . thank you.

>>> republican presidential hopeful hernan cain is with us from philadelphia. thank you for being with us.

>> it's my pleasure. thank you. you've been getting momentum was of late. recent iowa poll last week has you third behind mitt romney and michele bachmann . what is your message and why is it resonating?

>> my message is common sense solutions and problem solving . i spent all of my career as a problem solver in business, and the reason that it's resonating is because the american people are saying, and i've gotten this from all over the country, that they've gotten more solutions rather than creating problems. the fact that i have been a problem solver in business in various different types of businesses, that's resonating with people. they are rejecting the old notion that you must have had held public office in order to do a good job of leading this nation.

>> i was going to ask you about that because you said essentially your inexperience, the fact that you have never been elected and never held public office is a plus. my question to you is, if you were still a eo, still a business, would you hire someone for a key role who had no experience whatsoever in business?

>> in business we hire people at a level based upon their experience and based upon their qualifications. and then they are able to work their way up and demonstrate their problem solving capabilities. that's what happens in business. if you look at any successful businessperson and any successful business, they learn how to solve problems. work on the right problems, surround yourself with the right people, and then make sure you put together the right plans. that's not happening in washington, d.c. the american people , savannah, they like the idea that i'm a prop solver and not a politicians.

>> you have acknowledged that you have no foreign policy experience. and, in fact, you've minimize the importance of it saying it's something you can learn about later or you will just lrn to experts. at a time this country is in two wars, is that sufficient?

>> i wouldn't say that's sufficient. and i want to make one correction. i'm not waiting until i get elected. i'm already talking to national security people, former intelligence people, talking to former generals and people in the military to begin to develop ideas about how i would deal with those crises that we're in. so, no, i'm not minimizing that. but here's one thing. you don't need foreign policy experience to know who your friends are and who your enemies are and you don't need foreign policy experience to know that you don't tell your enemy what your next move is. so i'm not minimizing it. i'm already working on getting up to speed on that topic.

>> come of the statements you've made have been controversial. i want to ask you something. you said the liberal establishment is scared, that, quote, a real black man might run against president obama . what did you mean by that?

>> what i meant by that in the role of a martin luther king jr ., a real black man that can be decisive, leadership experience, a real black man that understands how to address the right problems, and a real black man that understands that the business sector is the engine to growing this economy. right now we do not have that leadership in the white house .

>> herman cain , we've got to leave it there. it's good to have you was today, thank you.