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Flashback: Herman Cain's 1994 Bill Clinton Debate On Health Care

Herman Cain, who won the Florida Republican presidential straw poll over the weekend, is no newbie when it comes to showing up career politicians. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was just the latest one to be Hermanized by the former Godfather's pizza company executive.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton had an encounter with Cain in which many conservatives believe the Man from mozzarella got the better of the Man from Hope.

The video of the encounter is worth watching and not just as a walk down memory lane, a golden era when the economy was creating jobs by the millions and before the threat of federal government shutdowns.

Clinton was pitching his ill-fated health care plan at a town hall-style meeting in Kansas City when Cain, who was leaving the pizza store chain to head up the National Restaurant Association, told the president that his proposed overhaul would wind up costing his company significantly more than the president's figures suggested.

This began a respectful and lively disagreement in which each man showed his ability to think on his feet with neither giving an inch.

Clinton said his health proposal would result in only a small increase to Godfather's payroll costs which could be easily passed on to customers.

Cain told the president he was wrong, explaining that because only a third of his workers got health insurance largely because the company couldn't afford paying any more, the costs would be far larger.

And that it wasn't so easy for a company like his that wasn't the largest in its industry to pass along costs to consumers when some of its competitors had the size to eat such costs in an attempt to gain market share from his company as price sensitive customers decided to go elsewhere.

As someone actually running a business at the time, Cain arguably came off as someone who had the better idea of how businesses run then Clinton. For instance, he explained that after expenses, his company's profits were about 1.5 percent of revenue, not enough to pick up the costs Clinton's plan would have imposed.

Along these lines, PolitiFact examined earlier this year Cain's track record at Godfather's and concluded that the should get credit for the turnaround that occurred there.

A piece by David Weigel at Slate also reports how that exchange with Clinton set in motion Cain's political career.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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