While Herman Cain is enjoying a boost in national polls regarding his candidacy for president, his supporters in Henry County are expressing optimism, too, that Henry County's favorite son has a chance to win his bid for the highest elective office in the land.
"His message is, everybody is accountable, everybody is responsible for themselves, and we need to quit playing like we're a victim of circumstance," said Greg Berkes, owner of Gritz Family Restaurant, at 14 Macon St., off The Square in downtown McDonough. Berkes, 52, said he is glad to see more people understanding Cain's message.
"He also talks in a language that people can understand. He's not a lifelong politician. He's a businessman that takes a common-sense approach to politics, which is refreshing and something that we need today," Berkes added.
The Associated Press, on Wednesday, reported that Cain, a 65-year-old businessman from Stockbridge, is at the top of the heap of presidential candidates for the Republican nomination, followed closely by Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.
"A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of Republican primary voters released Wednesday found Romney and Cain in a dead heat, while [Rick] Perry dropped to 16 percent," the Associated Press reported. "Cain was the first choice of 27 percent of those surveyed, while Romney held firm at 23 percent."
The article attributed a measure of Cain's success to his 9-9-9 tax overhaul plan.
"The plan would scrap the current tax code, and replace it with a 9-percent tax on personal income and corporations, as well as a new 9-percent national sales tax," the article said. "Cain argues that the 9-9-9 proposal would expand the tax base, so more Americans are contributing to government coffers, while, at the same time, getting government out of the business of picking winners and losers through the tax code. The final phase of Cain's plan would move to a so-called fair tax, eliminating the income and corporate income taxes, in favor of a national sales tax."
Many of the customers at the Gritz Family Restaurant, this week, agreed with Berkes, and said they are supporting Cain.
Donnie Evans, of McDonough, said he loves Cain's ideas for getting the country back on track. "At first, he was kind of lagging behind, but it looks like he's surging ahead now," said Evans, 38. "I'm in full support of him."
Clayton Wiggins, also of McDonough, echoed Evans' sentiments while dining on breakfast at Gritz, Thursday. Wiggins, 67, said he is impressed by the direct manner in which Cain addresses policy questions during the presidential debates.
"When you ask him a question, he'll answer it," said Wiggins. "He won't beat around the bush. That's the honesty in the man."
Wiggins' wife, Barbara, said she appreciates Cain's "down-to-earth" approach to politics. "He speaks to you, not above you," said Barbara Wiggins, also 67. "All the other politicians speak over your head. I don't think he's got a chance to make it, but he seems like an all-around good guy."
Gayle Varnadoe, of McDonough, said she favors Cain's 9-9-9 plan. "I like it because it's getting us toward a fair tax," said Varnadoe, 53. "I don't know much other about him –– that's what I have focused on. But when I hear him speak, he seems to be very intelligent, and seems to feel strongly about what he does know. It makes you feel confident. I'm very impressed," she added.
"We certainly hope Herman is our next president," said Mark Meeks. "We know him, and he's a super nice guy. He's not pretentious. He's just Herman Cain."
Meeks, co-owner of Stockbridge Florists and Gifts, said the presidential hopeful supported him and his family during their legal battle against eminent domain. Cain, he said, spoke at a rally in support of the family back in 2005.
The City of Stockbridge attempted to acquire Meeks' small floral shop through eminent domain, in order to make room for a large City Hall facility. Meeks ended up winning the eminent domain challenge. And continues to operate beside the newly constructed City Hall, located at the corner of Ga. Highway 42/North Henry Boulevard, and East Atlanta Road in Stockbridge, where the shop has done business for the past 28 years.
Meeks said he has been watching the growth of Cain's national profile over the past few weeks, like others in the Southern Crescent. "I think part of it is his ‘9-9-9 Plan,'" said Meeks. "I think he's very charismatic, and he's doing very well in the debates. He has good ideas. I'm very proud that he's from Stockbridge."
— Staff writer Johnny Jackson and the Associated Press contributed to this article.