SPENCER, Iowa — At a campaign stop this morning, Gov. Rick Perry was asked if he would consider former candidate Herman Cain for the position of defense secretary.
Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, recently suspended his campaign following allegations — which he denied — of an extramarital affair and sexual harassment. But he told journalist Barbara Walters in an interview that defense secretary is the cabinet position he'd still be interested in.
"I think it’s a little bit early to be deciding on your cabinet," Perry responded, "but he has all the characteristics of the type of person I’d bring forward."
On the stump, Perry has characterized himself as an "anti-Washington, anti-Wall Street outsider," an image that may resonate with former supporters of Cain, a businessman who has never held elected office.
Perry said that someone like Cain, who can balance the books and ferret out misspending, would be good for the defense budget, which he says has already been cut too much.
As for other potential members of a Perry administration, when asked if he'd be open to having a female vice president, Perry said, "I have no problem with that at all."
But while Perry praised the qualities of his former opponent, he tore into two of his remaining rivals, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, over earmarks, which Perry called "a plague."
"If there was a granddaddy of earmarks, he'd be it," Perry said of Gingrich. And as for Paul, said Perry, he's "still birthing earmarks as we speak."
According to Reynold Peterson, the mayor of Spencer, Cain had been a popular candidate in the area, which boasts its own Godfather's Pizza. "That's the funny thing about politics," Peterson said. "When you get above my level, or the local level, you never know what things in your past may come out and nab you someday."
Peterson was at a coffee shop that Perry dropped in on this morning before heading to his official campaign event at an Italian restaurant down the street.
Though he was an early Bachmann supporter, Peterson said he has not made up his mind which of the GOP hopefuls he's supporting. But as Perry made his rounds at the coffee shop, he said, "I'll give you a hint. [Bachmann] was in Spencer this morning, and I did not see her." (Indeed, Bachmann and Perry's campaigns ended up at the same hotel last night.)
Bachmann, whom Perry did not mention in his remarks at his event, has actively courted the Cain vote by adopting a "Win-Win-Win" slogan, a modified version of Cain's oft-repeated catchphrase "9-9-9."
As for Gingrich, Peterson cited concerns over his involvement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Peterson, a part-time mayor, said he particularly liked Perry's support of making the U.S. Congress positions part-time and slashing their pay accordingly. "We’ve got to start there, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat," he said.
Others who met Perry that morning were less enthused by his platform. Dean Monroe, a former Obama supporter who is now looking for another option, sat next to Perry as he had his coffee.
Monroe wanted to ask about Afghanistan, a war he'd like to see come to an end within a couple years, but instead the conversation stayed within the realm of small talk — things like the drought in Texas, the feral hogs also in Texas and which part of Texas qualified as "West Texas."
Monroe said he'd likely vote as an independent and was considering writing in "Robin Hood."