Herman Cain: What you need to know about the GOP presidential candidate

September 26, 2011

Herman Cain, the Republican presidential candidate and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, has grabbed headlines since his surprise victory Saturday in the Florida straw poll. But his win may be a sign of unhappiness among Republicans with their 2012 presidential field. Perry Bacon Jr. reported:

Republican activists want a candidate who is not just conservative on nearly every issue, but has been so his or her entire career. A good enough politician to debate and then defeat President Obama. Charismatic too.

They’re still looking. The overwhelming victory by businessman and longshot candidate Herman Cain in a straw poll here Saturday was a sign that the latest person to try to capture the fancy of party activists, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is--at least for now--struggling to do so.

Many of the more than 2,600 delegates at the Florida event said their vote for Cain was a way to register their frustration with all the GOP candidates, particularly Perry, who they felt gave a dismal performance at Thursday’s debate.

Just who is Herman Cain? The Fix’s Rachel Weiner has the details on the candidate:

Herman Cain is on a roll. Off a solid performance in Thursday night’s debate, the former Godfathers’ Pizza CEO won a straw poll in Florida — one that has predicted the Republican presidential nominee every time it’s been held. It’s still very unlikely that Cain will continue that streak. But he’s not thinking of dropping out anymore. So who is Herman Cain, and how did he get here?

Cain, 65, grew up in Georgia and graduated from Morehouse College; he has a master’s in computer science from Purdue University. His business career started at the Coca-Cola Company. From there, he went to Philadelphia and managed to turn the city’s Burger Kings profitable.

That success led him to his best known post: stabilizing the Nebraska-based Godfather’s Pizza franchise, which he took over in 1986 after managing to turn around Burger King in Philadelphia. At Godfather’s, Cain cut some troubled franchises, launched some inventive advertising campaigns and got rid of unpopular menu items.

By the early 1990s, Cain had started to transition out of day-to-day management at Godfathers and delve into politics. In 1992, he was appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. In 1994, he became head of the National Restaurant Association, a post Cain held for five years.

Since Cain’s victory in the Florida straw poll, along with Rep. Michele Bachmann’s win in the Ames straw poll last month, some have been wondering how much straw polls actually matter, as neither candidate is considered to have a strong shot at winning the nomination. The Fix’s Chris Cillizza examined the issue:

There have been four straw polls since Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll on Aug. 13, each won by a different Republican candidate.

Businessman Herman Cain claimed the biggest victory, winning the P5 straw poll in Florida on Saturday. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won at Mackinac Island in Michigan on Sunday. And Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum won straw votes in California and Pennsylvania respectively.

Of that group, only one — Romney — is given a serious chance of winning the 2012 presidential nomination, a fact which raises a critical question: Do straw polls matter?

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