Rick Perry paid Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich a dual compliment last debate when he said his ideal running mate would be a combination of the two of them — and, in fact, both Cain and Gingrich have said they’d be receptive to an invitation to run alongside whoever the eventual Republican nominee happens to be. But Cain, who has both tied and overtaken Perry in recent GOP presidential polls, wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable serving as Perry’s vice president, he said today:

“I would not say no to being vice president of the United States,” Cain said. “But it would depend upon who got the nomination. I will support who gets the nomination. I know I have said that there are some people right now who I cannot support, but I wouldn’t say no to it. I could say yes. But it has to be someone who I believe I can complement them in their job by being able to bring my skills to the table.”

But, Cain told the National Journal, “Quite frankly, based upon Governor Perry’s position on some issues, I would not be comfortable being his vice presidential nominee.”

Cain said that while he hasn’t “totally gone through all of [Perry’s] positions, but a lot of positions I have questions with” including “being soft on the border, issues relative to tuition for children of illegal aliens.”

Cain is the kind of candidate to be taken at his word, so presumably Perry’s policy positions are actually what make the vice presidency under him unattractive to Cain, but Cain was also not impressed with the now-erased racial slur on the rock at Perry’s hunting camp. On the other hand, Cain called Perry a “good governor” last Friday on the Jay Leno show even as he was somewhat minimizing the other candidates.

Cain probably has enough traction at this point for his preemptive rejection of a VP offer from Perry to give Perry supporters pause, but that Cain still fields the question of whether he’s open to the vice presidential slot at all — a question which I haven’t yet noticed put to Mitt Romney or Rick Perry — is a reminder that Republican elites still don’t consider him to be the same frontrunner the American people seem to consider him.