It was just a few short years ago that Barack Obama made history, capturing the Democratic nomination and then the presidency and becoming the first African American on the job.

Now, Obama is on the ropes with his poll numbers down, even among African Americans and another black man, businessman Herman Cain, is rising in the polls. A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll now shows Cain numerically ahead of Mitt Romney for the first time in their battle for the Republican nomination.

Cain is nothing if not controversial. The Post’s Rachel Weiner this week posted a piece about Cain and race.

Back in July, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain told Fox News that the “race card is now a joke, because a lot of American people have figured it out.” It’s a sentiment he’s repeated frequently, arguing that Democrats cry racism to paper over President Obama’s faults.

Yet Cain frequently invokes race on the campaign trail, far more often than Obama did during his first campaign for the White House.

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Cain has said that he thinks black folks have been “brainwashed” in their support of Obama and Democrats. African Americans have fired back. Courtland Milloy, for instance, says that’s what many black people think.

Get an education, work hard, don’t make babies out of wedlock, stay out of jail and trust in God.

Does racism exist? Yes, says Cain, but it doesn’t have to hold you back. Are lack of education and racial isolation to blame for high black unemployment? No doubt about it. Is the economic playing field level for some blacks? Of course it is, and no black person need rely on paternalistic whites to make it in this world.

Cain’s problem, Milloy says, is that “behind this alluring black face lurks a GOP that is white and angry and whose ill will toward blacks remains too rabid to ignore.”

One of the deans of the civil rights movement, Harry Belafonte has also weighed in, calling him a “bad apple.”

“He knows very little,” Belafonte said in an interview on the Joy Behar show. “Because he happened to have good fortune, because he happened to have had a moment when he broke through — the moment someone blinked – that does not make him the authority on the plight of people of color!”

Cain responded in this interview.

What are your thoughts? Have you been paying attention to Mr. Cain? Can he be the second black president of the United States?

The Root DC

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