BARTLETT, Tenn. — Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain barnstormed across Tennessee on Friday, looking to build support in the state where he was born and build on momentum he's shown in recent polls which have vaulted him into the top tier of the GOP field.
The Georgia businessman began the two-day bus tour in a Memphis suburb, speaking to about 2,000 tea party activists. All three public events on Friday were with tea party-affiliated groups. Cain played up his resume as a political outsider and survivor of pundits, who wrote his campaign's political obituary months ago.
"I don't know how to spell the word quit," Cain said, adding, "The voice of the people is more powerful than the voice of the media."
Cain cast himself as a commonsense problem solver whose business know-how is tailored for the tough economic times.
"The American people are tired of political answers and tired of political responses," the former Godfather's Pizza chief executive officer said.
"I have grown up telling it like it is and I am going to continue to tell it like it is," he said.
The crowd liked what they heard, waving "Raise Cain" signs.
"I like his straightforwardness and his ability to think on his feet and his decisiveness" said 72-year-old David Shiffman of Bartlett.
Later, at a stop in Jackson, Cain downplayed expectations for his fundraising totals, which must be reported to federal officials in the coming days.
He allowed that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry would raise "10 times more" money than he would.
Romney and Perry each have roughly $15 million in cash on hand, and both candidates raised a combined $30 million this summer.
But Cain sought to cast a positive spin, saying his campaign was not in debt, a claim, he noted, he federal government cannot make.
"Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who could say in the next state of the union address 'no debt?'" he asked,
He argued that the race for the GOP nod will be decided by "message not money."
Some 500 supporters attended the Jackson event, held in the parking lot of a strip mall.
Cain also pitched his 9-9-9 tax reform plan, which calls for scrapping the current tax code and replacing it with a 9 percent tax on personal income and corporations as well as a new 9 percent national sales tax.
Cain was set to headline a final tea party rally Friday in Waverly, Tenn.
The bus tour continues on Saturday.