Republican White House contender Herman Cain, his candidacy under increased scrutiny and heightened criticism as he has moved to the top of some national polls, said today his willingness to admit mistakes is a presidential quality.

“The thing that I think is going to convince people that my campaign is credible is the fact that if I make a misstatement, I’m willing to retract it. If I make a mistake, I’m willing to admit I made a mistake,” Cain told reporters after a $500-a-person private fundraiser at a downtown steakhouse.

Asked by reporters if such a quality was presidential, Cain responded, “Yes it is, because the last perfect person was hung on a cross 2,000 years ago,” a reference to Jesus Christ.

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO has been forced to try to clarify a wide range of remarks involving such topics as abortion and immigration, raising questions about whether his nascent campaign is ready for the bright lights of the nomination.

Though Cain said in one recent CNN interview that abortion is a “choice that that family or that mother has to make,” he also said the procedure should be illegal. Cain proposed an electrified border fence, later said he was joking and then later made an apology.

Cain also defended new criticisms over his campaign’s trademark 9-9-9 tax-reform plan (for a 9 percent corporate income tax, a 9 percent personal income tax and 9 percent national sales tax), contending he always included a provision to exempt people at or below the poverty level but no one read his proposal.

“It is not a new addition to 9-9-9. People simply didn’t read the analysis,” Cain said of what’s now being dubbed his 9-0-9 component. “It’s not new. It’s been there all along and it does not reduce the overall revenue that we raise because we left room for that in the revenue we’re going to raise.”

Cain also has proposed so-called opportunity zones that would give tax benefits to businesses that are hiring. “We also left room for that and it was in the plan all along. People simply did not read all the way through the plan,” he said.

Details of Cain’s plan to scrap the current federal tax system and replace it with his 9-9-9 proposal have been sketchy and questions have been raised about its fairness and whether it could generate enough revenue to operate government. Word about the modification to exempt lower income families from the income tax came during a speech he made last week.

“The higher up you get in the polls, the more criticism you’re going to get, the more attacks you’re going to get and the more every little word is going to be used for someone to try to take it out of context,” Cain said. “We fully expected this.”