BOSTON (CBS) – Herman Cain continues to defy the pundits.

He’s leading or holding near the top of many polls in the Republican presidential race and he’s neck-and-neck with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the hunt for the GOP nomination.

Cain talked with WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Joe Mathieu about his unlikely rise in the polls.

“When people get on the Cain train Joe, they don’t get off,” he said.

“Mitt Romney isn’t my biggest opponent. His money is my biggest opponent, quite frankly,” Cain said.

“I have a lot of respect for Mitt Romney. I don’t attack him personally. But I do attack his economic plan.

“He’s the Wall Street business man. I’m the Main Street business man.”

So if Romney were to secure the nomination, would Cain ever consider being his running mate?

“A lot of people are speculating on Romney-Cain, Cain-Romney, Cain-Gingrich, Gingrich-Cain. And as you know, Joe, a lot of things could happen between now and the end of this primary season. We’re just happy that we are right in the thick of things.

Cain also discussed the controversy surrounding an online advertisement that features his chief of staff smoking a cigarette.

Cain hasn’t bought air time on television, but he managed to get plenty of attention for the spot because of the criticism of the smoking.  Comedians even picked up on it, expanding the reach of the ad even further.

“My point was, let (campaign manager Mark) Block be Block. One of the themes of my campaign is let Herman be Herman. This is why people are connected with me, Joe. And Mark Block is my campaign, my Chief of Staff. That little smoke thing at the end – he’s a smoker. We were not trying to send any subliminal messages. We were not trying to make a statement on behalf of smoking. Let people be people. That’s all that we were trying to say.”

So what it will take for this unconventional candidate to win the GOP nomination?

“First or second in Iowa. First or second in New Hampshire. And then win South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and many of the Super Tuesday states. Then I think we win,” Cain told WBZ.

“The only surprise that I have experienced in this campaign is how quickly I got to the top of the polls. I expected to be in the top tier right about now…  But we didn’t expect to blow away that Florida straw poll the way we did. We won by a 2 to 1 margin over Romney and Perry and all of a sudden we started to attract attention.”

Listen to Joe’s interview here:

Listen to Part 2 here:

You can follow Joe Mathieu on Twitter at @JoeMathieuWBZ


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