NEW ORLEANS – Repubican presidential candidate Herman Cain continued to fight back against critics who say he can’t win the 2012 race during his speech Friday at the Republican Leadership Conference.

Cain also warmed to a comparison with another politician who wasn’t being given much of a chance in 2008, even as his personality made him a force to be reckoned with.

“I’m not offended to be called the black Mike Huckabee,” Cain said after his speech. “I think some of the people that were attracted to Governor Huckabee might be attracted to my campaign, but they might be attracted to somebody else.”

Even as Cain has risen in the polls – taking 12 percent nationally in the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey – political analysts and conservative commentators have continued to doubt that the politically inexperienced former pizza company executive actually has what it takes to win. And a spotty debate performance on Monday didn’t help.

Cain, though, is born for events like the RLC, and for the second straight year at the event, he had the crowd gushing.

During his speech, he had a retort for conservative commentators, comparing himself to a bumble bee that “didn’t get the memo” that it wasn’t supposed to be able to fly.

“To Mr. (Bill) O’Reilly, to Mr. (Karl) Rove, Mr. (Charles) Krauthammer: I didn’t get the memo that I’m not supposed to run,” Cain said. “The people are going to elect the next President of the United States, not the media.”

Cain’s powerful rhetoric upped the ante at an otherwise tame first day and a half of the conference.

And after the speech, he had even stronger words at a press conference with reporters, when talking about his political party.

“I guess because I’m black, somebody thought I was going to run as a Democrat,” Cain said. “I don’t think so. I left that plantation a long time ago, and I ain’t going back.”