Who is Herman Cain? That question spread across American political circles in early 2011 when Cain publicized his plans to form an exploratory committee for a presidential campaign. By May 2011, the businessman officially announced his intent to run for president on the Republican ticket. The move proved surprising considering that Cain had never previously held public office and that he’s a rarity in politics—a black Republican. What else in Cain’s background makes him standout? Learn more via this profile that highlights his Atlanta upbringing, rise to CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and his political views. Find out why the man nicknamed the “Hermanator” has earned widespread Tea Party support and a bevy of news coverage with this Herman Cain biography.
Herman Cain was born on Dec. 13, 1945. His mother worked as a domestic, and his father worked simultaneously as a janitor, chauffeur and barber, according to Cain’s website. Despite their menial jobs, Cain’s parents managed to buy a modest Atlanta home and send both him and his brother to college. Cain graduated from Morehouse College in 1967 with a math degree. He went on to Purdue University, obtaining a master’s degree in computer science. There, Cain earned a living by creating fire control systems for ships and planes for the Department of the Navy. Before long, opportunities in the corporate world opened up.
Coca-Cola. Pillsbury. Godfather’s Pizza. Herman Cain made his mark at each of these companies. Cain first entered the business world at Coca-Cola, working as a computer analyst. From there, he moved to Pillsbury. As regional vice president of Pillsbury’s Burger King division, Cain said that he transformed the 450 restaurants in one of Burger King’s worst performing regions into the company’s top performers. His turnaround of the Burger King restaurants paved the way in 1986 for Cain to become president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, which he reports saving from bankruptcy. After just more than a year, Cain had the company firmly in the black and directed his management team to buy Godfather’s out.
Thanks to his corporate triumphs, Cain was appointed president of the National Restaurant Association. This leadership role gave him his first taste of politics. As the association’s president, Cain started lobbying for restaurateurs and small business owners. His advocacy for the restaurant industry led to a well-publicized encounter with a U.S. president.
In 1994, Cain represented the National Restaurant Association during a town hall featuring President Bill Clinton. During the meeting, Clinton touted his healthcare reform plan, promising America that the proposed legislation would not hurt businesses. Cain didn’t hesitate to challenge the president, telling him that his calculations were wrong. “In the competitive marketplace, it simply doesn’t work that way,” he said.
Leading the National Restaurant Association not only led Cain to give feedback to the country’s lawmakers but also to a position on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. As chairman of the board, Cain examined economic issues and gave the Federal Reserve suggestions on creating suitable policies.
Herman Cain may have been a corporate superstar, but he’s yet to triumph in politics. In 2004, Cain ran for the U.S. Senate in Georgia but lost. The setback didn’t deter Cain from jumping into the Republican race for president in 2011, though.
Cain’s political platform is based on conservative principles. He’s fiscally conservative, opposes abortion and homosexuality, and favors small government. In certain cases, Cain supports affirmative action. Those who tuned in to his self-titled radio show in Atlanta could hear Cain’s take on politics regularly. As a presidential candidate, his views have sparked controversy.
Cain landed in hot water after remarking to a crowd in Iowa that if he were president, he’d tell Congress not to pass bills that were thousands of pages long. “I am only going to allow small bills — three pages,” he said. When the media reported on his preference for “three-page” bills, Cain not only said that he’d been taken out of context but also characterized the press as “idiotic.” He explained that what he really meant is that he would support bills concise enough for the public to understand.
Cain also raised eyebrows when he rejected being labeled as African American. “I don’t use African-American, because I’m American, I’m black and I’m conservative,” he said in June 2011. “I feel more of an affinity for America than I do for Africa.”
While that comment alienated some of the African-American community, Cain’s comments about Muslims have offended followers of Islam. Cain reportedly stated that having a Muslim serve on his cabinet would make him uncomfortable. He later said that he would not discriminate against Muslims but would determine their loyalty to the country by having a personal discussion with them.
“This nation is under attack constantly by people who want to kill all of us, so I’m going to take extra precaution,” he told CNN.
Despite Cain’s questionable views and lack of political experience, polls from June 2011 indicate that he’s the third most popular Republican nationally. This is thanks to Cain’s followers, especially in the Tea Party. The Tea Party’s support of Cain counters the widespread belief that the group is racist, which he called “ridiculous.” According to Cain, “They really wouldn’t care if I was green, red, blue or yellow - seriously.”