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Cain warmly embraced at conservative forum despite low poll numbers

From Shannon Travis, CNN Political Producer
  • RightOnline conferees interrupt presidential candidate with applause
  • Conservatives enthusiastic as Cain lists crises, urges energy efficiency
  • Cain now in high single, low double digits in most polls

Minneapolis (CNN) -- If applause, enthusiasm and sustained ovations are any indication, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is a strong favorite of committed conservatives -- boding well for his campaign despite a low, but rising, standing in several polls.

Those gathered at the final session on the final day of the RightOnline conference on Saturday evening in Minnesota warmly welcomed the former Godfather's Pizza CEO, then repeatedly interrupted his speech with adoring applause.

At one point the crowd erupted as Cain laid out what he called a series of crises: In energy policy, "foggy" foreign policy, the economy, spending and, "the biggest crisis is: A severe deficiency of leadership crisis." At another point, the crowd lit up as Cain urged the U.S. to rely on its own resources to become energy-independent.

And then there was this comment demonstrating that a familiar campaign catchphrase excites both Democrats and Republicans.

"This is why I tell people that my job is not to learn how Washington works," Cain said. "As a president, my job would be to change Washington, D.C."

For many a modern presidential campaign, the mantra of "Change" in Washington has been a well-worn slogan -- also prominently used by then-Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign.

While such displays of enthusiasm are important to any campaign, they have not yet allowed Cain to overtake some of his more well-known and better-financed opponents. Recent polls have placed Cain firmly behind the likes of Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. Ex-Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty also spoke to the conservative conference earlier Saturday.

But Cain appears to be increasing his support among many GOP voters, albeit slowly.

Once a longest of long shots for the Republican nomination, he has risen in the national polls in the GOP horse race, and now stands in the high single digits or low double digits in the most recent surveys.

CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.