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Presidential candidate Herman Cain is full of confidence about his 2012 prospects.

It's been weeks since he's set foot in first-voting Iowa or New Hampshire, yet he said Saturday he said expects to finish first or second in each state.

He's also predicting victory in South Carolina, which will hold the South's first presidential contest in 2012.

"And then, look out," Cain said Saturday before plunging into a crowd of football tailgaters at Samford University, a Baptist-affiliated school in Alabama.

That win, he says, will set the stage for him to capture the GOP nomination.

Cain, however, said he plans to "dial back" his campaign and media appearances in order to avoid missteps. Since climbing in the polls, he has had a series of fumbles, forcing him to clarify comments on abortion, immigration and terrorism suspects.

Cain has chalked up the mistakes to a grueling campaign schedule jammed with media interviews. Such itineraries are standard fare on the presidential campaign trail and it is unclear how aggressively he will restrict his schedule.

A former pizza magnate who has never held elected office, Cain is adapting from a longshot candidate hustling for any media attention to a front-runner who must be more selective with his time and disciplined in his message.

"When you're too tired you're not on your `A game,'" the 65-year-old Georgia businessman told a throng of reporters who greeted the arrival of his bus on the Samford campus.

He said it was a mistake to schedule interviews immediately following debates. Cain maintained he did not flip-flop on issues, but simply did not hear questions properly.

The blunt-spoken Cain has been more cautious lately. At a campaign stop at the Alabama Republican Party headquarters on Friday, Cain paused then asked a reporter to repeat a complicated two-part question on immigration.

"I don't want to have to clarify," he said with a laugh.

Not everyone thinks walking back a misstatement is a sign of weakness.

"I like that if he says something, he's not afraid to turn around and admit he's wrong," said Phil Andrews, of Birmingham, who tried without success to reach the candidate and have him sign his Cain t-shirt.

"He's human and that's just fine."

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Follow Shannon McCaffrey at http://www.twitter.com(backslash)smccaffrey13

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