I asked Cain for his thoughts on this theory of why he appeals to conservative audiences: First, many Republicans have a soft spot for business candidates. Second, they’re particularly drawn to his plain-talk candidacy because they’re dissatisfied with the rest of the GOP field. And third, many Republicans have internalized the Democratic/liberal criticism that they oppose Obama because he is black and that whenever they attack the president on this or that issue, the real motivation behind it is race. Herman Cain, they believe, could take it to Obama without all that racial baggage.

“Here’s my theory,” said Cain, leaning forward in his chair. “Let’s talk about the current field of Republican candidates. They can’t go after Obama as hard as I can because they’re not black. I think that, either subconsciously or deliberately, they are being coached to not say it a certain way, that you’re going to be labeled a racist and the liberal media is going to try to bring you down, because they still want to protect their precious Obama.”

Cain believes his audiences are a different story. “The voters, they hear my message first, not ‘He could take it to Obama,’ because they are more concerned about stopping Obama than taking it to Obama,” he explained. “This is what I’m hearing and this is what I’m feeling. And the race card is going to be short-lived if Herman Cain gets the nomination.”