Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer, Associated Press
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain speaks at a fundraiser for the Family Foundation on Saturday October 8, 2011 in Richmond, Va. Cain was the keynote speaker, and later signed copies on his new book, "This is Herman Cain."

RICHMOND, Va. — Herman Cain, the most recent Republican presidential hopeful to audition in battleground state Virginia, rallied a crowd of about 1,000 Christian conservatives Saturday night by blaming a Democratic White House for a poor economy and asserting that many blacks vote Democratic because they're brainwashed.

"One of the greatest attacks on the family is the economy that is on life support," Cain told the annual Family Foundation fundraising gala. "Mothers and fathers wanting a job but can't find a job. Sons and daughters graduating from college and want a career but can't get a career because this economy is stalled."

"One of the reasons this economy is stalled — and this is not a political statement — is because the current administration doesn't have a clue how to get this economy going," the former Godfather's Pizza CEO said.

Cain is trying to emerge from a crowded GOP field led for now by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

His remarks continued a weekend of Republican politics that saw controversies over Romney's Mormonism take center stage. Cain at times invoked tales of his own Christian faith to a group that took part in Christian prayers and was serenaded by Christian rock music.

The blunt and unabashed Cain exhorted Christians, evangelicals, conservatives "and even independents who are in their right mind" to "outvote the stupid people."

The lone black candidate in the GOP field, he said some blacks take him to task for speaking out forcefully against President Barack Obama.

"People say, 'How do you attract the African-American vote,'" said Cain, who bristles at the term and calls himself an American black conservative. "I say 'We've got to save the savable. We're not going to save everybody.'"

As to why so many black voters support Democrats, he said, "Too many of them are brainwashed."

"They won't even consider an idea, no matter how good it is, because it comes from somebody who might be a conservative or who might be running as a Republican. I call that brainwashed, and I'm not going to take it back," he said.

Cain called 2012 the last chance for conservatives to turn the direction of the nation around, and drew several ovations from the crowd. The event was billed as apolitical by its sponsor, a socially conservative nonprofit advocacy group that professes no partisan allegiance.

But the Family Foundation's president, Victoria Cobb, took the occasion to crow about the role the organization's political action wing played in electing Republicans to Virginia's top three statewide elected offices in 2009 and winning passage this year of legislation sharply tightening standards for abortion clinics.

Earlier Saturday, Cain signed copies of his latest book, "This is Herman Cain: My Journey to the White House," in Lynchburg. Sarah Palin, Republican John McCain's 2008 vice presidential running mate, also spoke Saturday at Liberty University in Lynchburg just days after announcing she will not run enter the GOP presidential race.

In the past month, Perry and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota have addressed conservative gatherings in Virginia.

Obama is also focusing on Virginia, a traditionally Republican state in presidential elections that he managed to win in 2008. He made his first speech pressuring Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs legislation in Richmond last month, and he plans stops next week in four Virginia cities on a bus tour promoting the bill.