Herman Cain in Davenport

Diane Dankert, Davenport, gets an autograph from Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain at a Scott County Republican Women's luncheon at Thunder Bay Grille in Davenport on Monday, July 11, 2011. (Larry Fisher/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

Larry Fisher

Negotiations on the federal debt ceiling aren't aiming high enough, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said in the Quad-Cities on Monday, arguing he would like to see spending cuts go as high as $6 trillion over 10 years, two to three times the level now being contemplated.

Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza, blamed President Barack Obama and Congress for allowing the debt ceiling talks to come down to the wire, saying it's a failure of leadership. In an interview, he rejected the idea negotiators should satisfy themselves with $2 trillion in cuts over 10 years.

"It's not enough," he said. "I'd like to see, over 10 years, somewhere in the range of $5-to-$6 trillion. And I happen to believe that it is perfectly doable if you do one of the things I have been advocating out here on this campaign journey. Restructure these programs. As long as we're talking about just cutting them and not restructuring them, then they're never going to get their hands around the whole issue of spending."

Over the weekend, a White House proposal to put together a $4 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling was rejected.

Republicans have said they won't go along with revenue increases, which Democrats are demanding. As a result, talks are centered on reducing spending by $2 trillion to $3 trillion. The debt ceiling is now at $14.3 trillion.

Cain was in Davenport as a guest speaker at the Scott County Republican Women's luncheon at Thunder Bay Grille.

He drew a sizeable crowd, and a handful of people said later they were impressed by his common touch.

"He makes sense," said Bill Edmond, a Davenport alderman and Republican activist. "We need more people who practice common sense" in Washington, D.C.

Cain said he would take federal Medicaid and education funds and send them to the states to give states more flexibility.

He also said he would cut corporate and payroll taxes and eliminate taxes on corporate profits now being held overseas in an effort to promote the economy.

Cain's stop in the Quad-Cities was one of two for the day. He also was going to Urbandale to open his state campaign headquarters.

He also took questions from the group Monday.

In answer to one man's complaint about how some people - "idiots," he called them - aren't educated about basic civics and how the government works, Cain drew laughs when he said the first step was to "save the saveable."

"I believe that what this gentleman is referring to represents what I call the clueless 50 percent," Cain said. "Unfortunately, a lot of them vote. That's the problem."

Cain said that could be combatted by conservatives turning out to vote next year - as some did not for John McCain in 2008 - and that the "pendulum has already started to shift" to draw independents and moderates away from Obama toward a better alternative.

"Things are beginning to shake out," he said. "I happen to believe we have the ability to get the right votes in the right places."