Cain, who refers to himself in the third person and goes as THEHermancain on Twitter, acknowledged that there was no downside to his own campaign. “A lot more people know who Herman Cain is,” he said, regardless of the outcome. “I don’t have this long-term ambition of I want my own show on Fox,” he said. “I want to be president.”
Challenging Hillary Care
Earlier that morning hardly any cars rolled in front of Cain’s childhood home, a low-slung brick house outside of downtown Atlanta with a front lawn buzzing with bees and hopping with robins.
Decades earlier, when Cain was in the eighth grade, his father drove the family up to the house and declared that it was their new home.
“My brother and I just about went crazy,” Cain recalled.
Cain’s father worked as a chauffeur to Robert Woodruff, the president of Coca-Cola, who tipped his driver with stocks. Those shares helped send Cain to Morehouse College in 1967, where he majored in math and became the first member of his family to earn a degree. Being an overachiever, Cain said, “is an understatement.” He earned an advanced degree in computer science from Purdue University in 1971 and then, like his father, went to work for Coca-Cola, but as a business analyst. Later, in the 1970s, at the age of 31, he joined Pillsbury and focused on its subsidiary Burger King, turning a low-performing Philadelphia region into the best in the country.
“It is possible to screw up the Whopper,” Cain said.
His break came when he joined the fledgling Godfather’s Pizza as CEO and president. He said he was brought on to “oversee its death,” but instead he made it profitable and then bought the chain with investors.
It was as Godfather’s CEO, and head of the National Restaurant Association, that Cain had his first brush with politics. At a 1994 nationally televised town hall event, he challenged President Bill Clinton on his health-care proposal. “If I’m forced to do this, what will I tell those people whose jobs I will have to eliminate?” Cain asked the president.
Cain, who today thinks he was a “catalyst” in the killing of so-called Hillary Care, became a conservative sensation and parlayed his star turn into political opportunities. Gingrich gave Cain a slot on Congress’s flat-tax study group. Jack Kemp marveled at his courage standing up to the president and said he had “the voice of Othello.” In 1996, Cain joined the Dole/Kemp campaign as an adviser. He then co-chaired Steve Forbes’s “flat tax” presidential campaign in 2000. In 2004, he lost a bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia to Johnny Isakson and then focused his energies on a second career espousing his conservative views as an Atlanta radio personality.