DES MOINES - Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, said Thursday that he needs to be in the "top three" at the Iowa GOP straw poll in Ames or he will have to evaluate his prospects for a continuing campaign.

"If we finish fourth or fifth, we're going to evaluate that to determine what the implications are," Cain said during a candidate forum at the State Historical Building in downtown Des Moines. "It's not the end of the road, it's just going to be a part of the analysis that we will do to decide to go forward."

Cain used the opportunity - his 25th visit to Iowa - to plug his upcoming 15-city bus tour that begins Monday with stops in western Iowa and leads up to the straw poll.

Cain said his strength lie in his "ground game," and he has the ability to win over crowds with his "common-sense solutions" to the issues of the day.

"I'm a career problem-solver, not a career politician," Cain said.

Some of the problems he believes need solving are overly burdensome taxes, an out-of-control regulatory structure and the moral breakdown of America.

Cain said the top rate for both corporate and personal taxes should be 25 percent. He said he'd suspend all repatriated taxes - those taxes U.S. companies pay on overseas profits - and eliminate capital gains taxes.

"Don't cut it, don't trim it, take it to zero," Cain said.

Cain, who also serves as a commentator for Fox Business and writes a syndicated column, said federal government regulations have gone too far.

He said the United States Department of Education "should get out of the way" in favor of local control, that he would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and that the Environmental Protection Agency has lost its focus.

Saying he was reading about an EPA regulation regarding dust on farms, Cain said he was shocked.

"The people that are coming up with these rules, they've never been on a farm, they've never been on a tractor," he said. "They're not even talking to the farmers about this; they just come at it from some wacko environmental standpoint."

Cain, a Baptist minister, said he was disturbed by a "moral crisis" he sees in the country and worries that God is being taken out of the culture.

"If (churchgoers) do not come along and get involved in this political process that we have, then the moral crisis is going to get worse," he said.

Susan Ramey of the Greater Des Moines Partnership said the event attracted roughly 80 people who were not staff members or media. Larry Hagedon, a 65-year-old Cain supporter from Keosauqua, said the turnout was "terrible" for a person he thinks should be the next president.

"I've been following him for the last two years," Hagedon said. "He has the right message and everything I see about him is just right."

Cain said he expects to pick up more supporters during his bus trip because Iowans respond to his message.

"Absolutely (Iowans) relate to me because I eat a lot of pork and a lot of beef, and they relate to plain talk," he said.

Eileen Mercuris, a teacher from Prairie City, said Cain did make sense with his comments on education, but she's still undecided who to support when she goes to the straw poll.

"I'm a Republican, and I learn toward the Tea Party," she said. "I just want to see what all the candidates say." By Mike Wiser

Lee Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES - Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, said Thursday that he needs to be in the "top three" at the Iowa GOP straw poll in Ames or he will have to evaluate his prospects for a continuing campaign.

"If we finish fourth or fifth, we're going to evaluate that to determine what the implications are," Cain said during a candidate forum at the State Historical Building in downtown Des Moines. "It's not the end of the road, it's just going to be a part of the analysis that we will do to decide to go forward."

Cain used the opportunity - his 25th visit to Iowa - to plug his upcoming 15-city bus tour that begins Monday with stops in western Iowa and leads up to the straw poll.

Cain said his strength lie in his "ground game," and he has the ability to win over crowds with his "common-sense solutions" to the issues of the day.

"I'm a career problem-solver, not a career politician," Cain said.

Some of the problems he believes need solving are overly burdensome taxes, an out-of-control regulatory structure and the moral breakdown of America.

Cain said the top rate for both corporate and personal taxes should be 25 percent. He said he'd suspend all repatriated taxes - those taxes U.S. companies pay on overseas profits - and eliminate capital gains taxes.

"Don't cut it, don't trim it, take it to zero," Cain said.

Cain, who also serves as a commentator for Fox Business and writes a syndicated column, said federal government regulations have gone too far.

He said the United States Department of Education "should get out of the way" in favor of local control, that he would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and that the Environmental Protection Agency has lost its focus.

Saying he was reading about an EPA regulation regarding dust on farms, Cain said he was shocked.

"The people that are coming up with these rules, they've never been on a farm, they've never been on a tractor," he said. "They're not even talking to the farmers about this; they just come at it from some wacko environmental standpoint."

Cain, a Baptist minister, said he was disturbed by a "moral crisis" he sees in the country and worries that God is being taken out of the culture.

"If (churchgoers) do not come along and get involved in this political process that we have, then the moral crisis is going to get worse," he said.

Susan Ramey of the Greater Des Moines Partnership said the event attracted roughly 80 people who were not staff members or media. Larry Hagedon, a 65-year-old Cain supporter from Keosauqua, said the turnout was "terrible" for a person he thinks should be the next president.

"I've been following him for the last two years," Hagedon said. "He has the right message and everything I see about him is just right."

Cain said he expects to pick up more supporters during his bus trip because Iowans respond to his message.

"Absolutely (Iowans) relate to me because I eat a lot of pork and a lot of beef, and they relate to plain talk," he said.

Eileen Mercuris, a teacher from Prairie City, said Cain did make sense with his comments on education, but she's still undecided who to support when she goes to the straw poll.

"I'm a Republican, and I learn toward the Tea Party," she said. "I just want to see what all the candidates say."

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