Herman Cain, former CEO of God Father Pizza, went from relatively anonymous among GOP primary voters to a Republican presidential candidate everyone is buzzing about following his performance at the first Republican presidential debate in South Carolina. What is interesting about Mr. Cain has been the candidate many primary voters secretly like but believe that he is too much of a long shot to beat President Barack Obama much less make it out of the Republican primaries. This dynamic has great potential to change as a Frank Luntz’s polling group of Republican voters in South Carolina overwhelmingly declared the Atlanta radio host the winner of Thursday night’s debate.
I spoke with Mr. Cain back in January when he hinted he was about to announce announce his run for the Republican presidential nomination. He emphasized support he was getting from grassroots conservatives and described how he defined the tea party movement:
“Some people call it the tea party movement. I call it the citizen’s movement, because if there’s just the tea party organizations, and there’s a couple of those, but there’s Americans for Prosperity. It’s Americans for Tax Reform. It’s the intelligent thinkers movement.”
Mr. Cain has been criticized for having no political experience, but as I mentioned in my piece on Mr. Cain, this run for the GOP presidential ticket is not his first time trying out the political field. Though he lost his 2004 run for one of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat, nevertheless, Mr. Cain’s participation in the political arena has always been a constant. However, he apparently learned from that loss and told me in January why he announced his candidacy for president earlier than other GOP presidential hopefuls:
“In 2004 I ran for the United States Senate [in Georgia]. The two things that I learned from that race, where I came in an impressive second, was if I ever were to run for office again, I would start early and I would hire good people. That’s why I decided I would go ahead now and announce the presidential exploratory committee,” he said.
A few points on Herman Cain:
1. Mr. Cain was not only an advisor to both Jack Kemp and Steve Forbes
2. He faced off President Bill Clinton at a 1994 town hall meeting, where the Godfather Pizza CEO challenged Mr. Clinton on the Democratic healthcare bill at the time:
3. Mr. Cain has a personal history as a chauffeur’s son who graduated from both Morehouse College (B.A.) and Perdue University(M.A.). He then went on to became a successful executive in major American businesses like: Godfather’s, Pillsbury, Burger King and Coca-Cola. All this gives the Georgia native strong credibility in the philosophy that with hard work and determination, every American has a chance to make it in the United Sates. Mr. Cain has described previously to media that his story “represents all that’s right in America.”
4.In 1996, Mr. Cain became a registered Republican following years as an independent.
5. A 2004 Marietta Journal interview with Mr. Cain during his Senate run shows the retired CEO as wanting to have more influence in the political scene:
During his time as an executive, Cain also worked behind the scenes to support Republican causes - an effort that helped forge his political ideology but which he said had little impact on public policy. “For all these years, I’ve been working on these issues from outside the system and what happened? Nothing,” he said. “That was the frustration.”
6. His 2004 campaign highlighted his support for the Fair Tax plan as replacing all forms of the income tax with a national sales tax, instead. Below is a 2004 Senate campaign video where he talks about the tax code:
7. Mr. Cain opposes abortion except when the life of the mother is in danger.
8. Mr. Cain is an Atlanta based radio host. His ability to riff on political issues has helped him tremendously when challenged by liberals:
9. Mr. Cain is also a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
10. Mr. Cain performs strongly before audiences and like Donald Trump, Mr. Cain has an “in your face” style of campaigning that activists and voters in the conservative base are endearing themselves to:
Mr.Cain has been underestimated by many on both the right and the left. This likely worked to his advantage in the early stages of the campaign season. While Trump, Romney, Pawlenty and others have been taking many of the blows from their critics, Mr. Cain has been announced and campaigning around the country. His sincere underdog status has worked well for him.