Since its inception in 1982, no Republican presidential candidate has won the nomination without winning Florida’s Presidency 5 straw poll.
By that measure, Georgia businessman Herman Cain will be the GOP’s 2012 nominee. That seems unlikely, given that Cain has built up virtually no campaign organisation and his name recognition among likely Republican primary voters remains at 50%, below Sen. Rick Santorum and just about equal to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. His support has plateaued between 10% and 5% in recent polls.
But Cain has undoubtedly made a splash in the 2012 Republican presidential race. While other longshot candidates like Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman have faded in the debates, Cain has stood out, in spite (or perhaps because) of his bizarre calls to overhaul Social Security with the “Chilean model.”
Cain now rivals Ron Paul as the fan favourite among the Tea Party set. But few outside of the movement know much about the “The Hermanator,” other than that he is black and likes pizza.
We did a little digging to find out more — and as it turns out, Cain has quite a fascinating history.
In many ways, Cain is basically the embodiment of the American dream.
The 65-year-old pizza magnategrew up in Atlanta, Georgia at the height of the Civil Rights battles. Cain has described his family as 'poor but happy' -- his mother was a domestic worker and his father worked three jobs, as a janitor, barber and chauffeur.
Cain worked his way through school and graduated from Morehouse College in 1967 with a degree in maths.
When Cain told Sean Hannity that solving America's problems is 'not rocket science,' few noted that Cain is actually one of few people qualified to make that remark.
After graduating from Morehouse, Cain worked full-time as a mathematician in ballistics for the U.S. Navy, developing fire control systems for ships and fighter planes.
At the same time, Cain was also working toward a master's degree in computer science at Purdue University.
After moving to the private sector as a computer analyst for Coca-Cola, Cain was hired by the Pillsbury Company, where he quickly became a vice president.
Cain left his position at Pillsbury headquarters in the early 1980s to work for the company's Burger King subsidiary in Philadelphia. According to his bio, he learned the business by 'starting from the ground up, dodging grease fires and broiling hamburgers.'
Within three years, he turned the region's 450 BK restaurants from the least profitable to the most profitable in the nation.
Cain is perhaps best known for turning around Godfather's Pizza, a nearly-bankrupt Midwestern pizza chain.
Before hiring Cain in the late 1980s, Pillsbury had all but given up on its Godfather's subsidiary, which suffered from lawsuits, a bad menu, a downtrodden workforce, and terrible marketing. But rather than invest more in marketing, as conventional wisdom would suggest, Cain's 'pizza emergency' campaign cut the marketing budget and emphasised improving service. According to Cain, he turned around the chain within 14 months.
In 1988, he and his management team decided to buy Godfather's for an undisclosed sum.
Cain has the best anti-Obamacare street cred of any of the GOP candidates — he went head-to-head with Bill Clinton over healthcare reform in 1994.
Cain has been fighting Democrats' attempts to overhaul healthcare for the better part of two decades (which is a lot more than Romney OR Perry can say).
In 1994, Cain, then president-elect of the National Restaurant Association, publicly challenged President Bill Clinton on his healthcare reform plan at a town hall event in Nebraska, taking him to task over the cost of the employer mandate.
'Your calculation, quite honestly, is incorrect,' Cain told Clinton. 'In the competitive marketplace it simply doesn't work that way.'
At the time, Newsweek called Cain one of the 'real saboteurs' of the Clinton healthcare plan. An aide to Sen. Phil Gramm told the magazine that Cain 'was the lightning rod' that killed the plan.
Although it is rarely mentioned in media reports about Cain, the Tea Party favourite was a member of the board of directors for the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, one of the Fed's 12 regional banks, from 1992 until 1996, and chairman of the board from 1995 until 1996.
His former Fed colleagues say Cain was an 'inflation hawk' but also in 'lockstep' with then-Fed Chair Alan Greenspan.
This former job -- and fealty to Greenspan -- has still posed a little bit of a problem for him with the Tea Party. Glenn Beck had a minor freakout when he found out Cain had worked for the loathed central bank.
In 1996, Cain left the Kansas City Fed board to become more active in national politics, joining the Bob Dole-Jack Kemp 1996 presidential campaign team as a senior economic advisor.
(Kemp has described Cain as having ''the voice of Othello, the looks of a football player, the English of Oxfordian quality and the courage of a lion.')
Cain has also been a generous Republican donor, giving nearly $400,000 to campaigns and political action committees since 1979.
But 'The Hermanator' has recently eschewed these Beltway connections, cultivating an anti-Establishment image as a syndicated conservative talk radio host and columnist. Through this media work, he has garnered a huge following with the Tea Party that is, in many ways, at odds with his Republican party roots.
Cain's longshot candidacy is due, in large part, to the fact that he has never been elected to public office.
But Cain has made several unsuccessful election bids, starting with a short-lived presidential campaign in 2000. In 2004, he ran for U.S. Senate in Georgia but came in second place in the Republican primary with a quarter of the vote, losing to then-Congressman Johnny Isakson.
During Thursday's presidential debate -- Cain's breakthrough moment in the 2012 campaign -- Cain drew roaring cheers and a rounding applause from his competitors when he confirmed that he is cancer-free, having survived Stage IV colon and liver cancer diagnosed in 2006.
Cain has used his diagnosis to add a personal appeal to his opposition to Obamacare. He claims he would be dead if the 2009 healthcare reform bill had been in place when he was diagnosed because the law would have delayed his treatment.
One of Cain's campaign mantras is that he is not 'politically correct' -- a claim he has proven to be true with some inflammatory statements about Muslims.
Earlier this year, Cain told reporters that he would not appoint any Muslims to his administration if elected president.
'There is this creeping attempt, this attempt, to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government,' Cain said. I get upset when the Muslims in this country, some of them, try to force their sharia law onto the rest of us.'
He later walked back the claims, but still frequently mentions the threat of Sharia law on the campaign trail.
Cain's tole the show at the Conservative Political Action Conference this spring, delivering a rousing speech remembered for one line -- 'Stupid people are ruining America.'
The CPAC speech cemented Cain as a conservative icon destined to give Ron Paul a run for his money. Republicans at the event said the entire 30-minute address was invigorating, and moved many in the audience to tears.
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