Herman Cain addresses small business owners in Philadelphia on Friday, October 19. Photo by George Zornick.
“The problem,” former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain told a ballroom of about thirty people in Philadelphia on Friday afternoon, “is we have a president who does not believe in a free marketplace. This is why his whole campaign is about class warfare. Playing the race card. Divisiveness. And as some of us know, deception.”
These are boilerplate attacks from Cain, but this was not a typical Tea Party rally. This was yet another stop on Cain’s “Job Creators Truth Tour 2012,” the fifth this week and one of thirty that will happen before the election. The audience was “job creators” from the Philadelphia area—small-business owners who were there to learn how to influence their employees vote in November.
Mitt Romney landed in hot water this week when In These Times reported his remarks on a conference call with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, in which he told business owners that “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.” But Cain’s tour represents a much deeper and well-organized effort by the GOP to use what borders on workplace intimidation to influence this fall’s vote—and one that has largely gone on below the radar.
Before each event, which are happening exclusively in swing states, invites go out to business owners through local Tea Party groups. The lunches are always free, and during nice meals business owners are plied with information about how President Obama’s re-election will supposedly damage their bottom lines. They are also given multiple pamphlets containing similar information, and instructed to pass them out to employees. Cain said he has already made contact with 1,600 small business owners since beginning the tour.
Unlike Romney, who used a bit of tact on that conference call (saying employees should vote “whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama,”) the materials and speeches leave little doubt about who employees are supposed to vote for. There are occasional disclaimers that this is a nonpartisan exercise, but they border on nonsensical. “This is not a party stance. The mission is to defeat Barack Obama,” Cain said Friday in Philadelphia.
As attendees dined on salmon, mussels, coffee and desert at the downtown Ritz-Carlton, Cain let them know that the election can be won more easily than many people think. “There are a lot of disgruntled Democrats out there. And most of them work for you!” he said. “This is why we’ve made these materials available to you, and folks, you know—free.”