POLITICS

Is Herman Cain in over his head?

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ATLANTA (AP) - Herman Cain is learning the hard way what it means to face the glare of the national spotlight.

Herman Cain (Photo courtesy John Trainor)

After captivating Republicans hungry for an alternative to Mitt Romney, the presidential hopeful has made a series of stumbles that have left some questioning if he's ready for the White House. The Georgia businessman has been on a media blitz since a rise in the polls catapulted him into the top tier of the race for the Republican party nomination.

But Cain has sometimes appeared to be in over his head. In the last week, he:

*Suggested a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico should be electrified to kill illegal immigrants trying to pass into the United States. Cain later called it a joke and apologized if anyone was offended by the remarks.

*Said he would negotiate for the release of U.S. prisoners held by terrorists, then reversed himself and said he had misunderstood the question.

*Muddied the water on abortion, telling CNN that, while he strongly opposes abortion, "the government shouldn't be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions that they need to make." He later issued a statement reiterating his opposition to abortion.

*Amid criticism that his signature 9-9-9 tax overhaul would force the majority of Americans to pay more to the government, he reworked the plan to exclude the poorest Americans and to allow some deductions. Backers of Cain's original plan had praised its simplicity, and piling on loopholes could erode into that support.

Through it all, Cain has appeared unflappable. He chalks up the reversals to the breakneck pace of the race.

"In a couple of instances ... I misspoke because of the pace of the interview. I don't call it a flip-flop. I'd rather come back and explain to people what I really meant," Cain said Friday after an economic speech in Detroit.

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