(CBS News) TAMPA, Fla. - Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain told a crowd of 1,000 mostly Tea Party supporters Sunday that if anything, being pressured out of the race helped him become a more candid mouthpiece for conservative values.
"I am going to say what a lot of people will not say... [because] I ain't running for president!" the former pizza chain head shouted to raucous applause here during a "Unity Rally," part of the Republican National Convention festivities that attracted a room full of supporters waving "Don't Tread on Me" flags. Another former presidential candidate and tea party favorite - Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., - kicked off the event, held at The River Church.
Cain, back in the state that launched his presidential campaign to top-tier status last year with an upset in the Florida GOP straw poll, said he was not offended Mitt Romney didn't invite him to speak at this week's convention because, "it's not about me."
Though he's flown relatively under the radar since suspending his campaign last December amid sexual harassment and extramarital affair allegations, Cain said he refuses to heed those who "thought I was gonna go away... Nope, not gonna happen." One new issue on the agenda for Cain - a black conservative who rarely acknowledged his race during his campaign - is how to help racially diversify the GOP.
Nodding to models like Mia Love, the black Republican nominee for a Utah congressional district, Cain said black conservatives seeking office are growing in number. But, he told reporters following the rally, black voters aren't likely to admit supporting Romney, because Democrats' "scare tactics" stifle their willingness to be tied to "the white guy."
(Watch: Nine questions with Herman Cain.)
Citing a study that deems "African-Americans" more politically correct terminology than "blacks," Cain said to huge cheers, "They say African-Americans, I say black people. I haven't been to Africa once; I've been in America all my life." And joking that "going to a family reunion is like going to a Democratic caucus," Cain used the success story of his father's climb up the ladder as an example of his own conservative ideology.
"I have a message for President Obama: He did that, not the government," Cain said, referencing the president's now-infamous "You didn't build that" line.
Cain also jumped at a chance to knock Vice President Biden for his recent line to a primarily black audience saying Romney would put them "back in chains." Asked about Romney's joke earlier this week that alluded to the president's birth certificate controversy, Cain asked reporters to "cut the man some slack - he's running for president. He can crack a joke every once in a while.
"Vice President Biden tried to do a joke, and it didn't work out too well, did it?" he continued.
But praising his party's own vice presidential contender, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Cain told the audience, "A lot of people don't realize what it takes to step up to the plate and run for office. It takes a lot. It takes a lot, folks."