About a dozen informal advisors have been helping Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain craft his views on both domestic and foreign policy as part of the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO's transition from businessman to politician.
But the identities of these advisers are largely a mystery.
The group includes former senior administration officials, former ambassadors, and economic and foreign policy experts, some of which are “household names,” according to J.D. Gordon, vice president of media relations for the Cain campaign.
Without naming names, Cain has referenced the unofficial advisers while on the campaign trail. It is how he often tries to quell concerns that his lack of time in public office would make him an inexperienced and unprepared president.
The week leading up to his Presidency 5 Straw Poll victory in Florida, the Atlanta based businessman told a room full of Republicans in Brandon, FL that a “well known former ambassador” is helping map his UN policy and members of Congress are drafting legislation for his 999 plan – an economic strategy that would set a business flat tax, an individual flat tax and a national sales tax all at 9 percent.
“I’m getting all of this good advice from people who know more about stuff than I do, so I can’t tell you who it is,” he told voters.
A senior campaign adviser said the reason the presidential hopeful has not released any of the names is because some of the informal consultants are not yet ready to declare their support for Cain.
The issue came to a head on Fox News Sunday on Sept. 18 when moderator Chris Wallace tried to pin Cain down about who helped him craft the 999 plan. Cain said it was his work, along with his senior economic adviser Rich Lowrie and “some of the best known economists in this country.” As to who those economists are, he said they have their own independent businesses and he could not compromise their confidentiality.
“I don’t throw my confidential supporters under the bus,” Cain said in Florida two days later.
Along with the outside help, three members of the Cain campaign - Lowrie, Gordon and research assistant Clark Barrow – serve as the candidate’s policy team. Lowrie is managing director of a wealth management group of Wells Fargo Advisors. Gordon was the Defense Department spokesman for the Western Hemisphere, and – along with serving as Cain’s press secretary - advises the candidate on foreign policy. Barrow started as an intern for “The Herman Cain” radio show in 2008 and was hired shortly there after. He compiles daily briefings for the candidate and coordinates debate preparation.
“He gets advice from our policy team within the campaign and he also has a large network of friends who are people like retired ambassadors,” Gordon said.
Cain has received increased attention since his rise recent rise in the polls, but even before any mention of him as a top tier candidate, there were questions about his foreign policy credentials – an area which Gordon says Cain is spending a considerable amount of time studying.
At the first Republican presidential debate in May, he said he did not have a plan for Afghanistan because he needed to listen to “the experts and their advice and their input ... I'm not privy to a lot of confidential information since I'm not in government and I'm not in the administration.”
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Networking last week, Cain said how he would respond to “gotcha questions" like who the president of Uzbekistan is.
“When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, 'You know, I don’t know ... How’s that going to create one job?'” he said.