At the moment, many of the national polls rank Herman Cain highest among those campaigning to become the Republican candidate for the presidency. It’s still two months before the earliest presidential primaries so the polls have questionable value. Nevertheless, Cain is so unusual, in comparison to the others, that his current popularity is amazing. He is different mainly in his not being a career politician and this may be a major reason for his appeal. There are other reasons.
Both of Cain’s parents are African-American. They were poor and worked hard to raise a family. The mother was a cleaning woman and the father was a janitor, barber and, eventually, chauffeur to the president of Coca Cola. Herman was educated in segregated schools. He received a B.S. from Morehouse College in Mathematics with a minor in physics. His Masters is in Computer Science from Purdue University. He holds eight honorary degrees from various universities.
Cain was a (civilian) ballistics analyst for the U.S. Navy. At Coca Cola, he worked his way up to become its top IT executive. Recruited by Pillsbury, he managed a 400 store Burger King region near Philadelphia from least to most profitable. Assigned CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Pillsbury’s subsidiary, he improved its performance and led a leveraged buyout, continuing as its CEO. He was CEO of the National Restaurant Association. On behalf of that organization, he debated Bill Clinton on his Universal Healthcare Bill in a Kansas City town hall meeting; it was judged to be a Cain win. He served on the board of directors (and, later, its chairman) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He has served on the boards of eight corporations and one bank. This is the man who Hillary Clinton demeaned as a pizza man. She remembers who spiked her health plan.
Cain has lived all over the country, because of his career. He’s been married for 43 years and has two children and three grandchildren. He was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, metastases in his liver. With a 30% survival prognosis, he underwent surgery and chemotherapy. After five years, he has remained cancer-free. He’s assistant pastor at his Baptist Church. He’s been a talk radio host and a syndicated columnist. Most people would admit this guy is pretty impressive.
The problem with Cain is he came late to the campaign party without an organization for fund raising and campaign operations. Without massive funding, a modern political campaign is at a huge disadvantage, perhaps hopelessly so. On the other hand, the Tea Party really likes him. The good news is the Tea Party has great influence. The bad news is it’s very loosely organized, also. Unless Cain shows up well in the early state primaries, he’s toast. That would be unfortunate; he is a good comparison to the other Republicans and would be an effective opponent to Obama.
As the currently leading Republican prospect, Cain is the target of most criticism. His 9-9-9 tax plan is torn apart by many in both political parties. No doubt some valid criticisms will emerge, eventually, but not so far. Arthur B. Laffer, a credible, well known economist, gives the plan high marks. Newt Gingrich, another prospective Republican Presidential Candidate praises Cain for his boldness in coming forth with a useful idea while others just carp about the situation. The other main criticism of Cain is lack of international experience. Cain believes America should name its friends and its enemies and treat its friends like friends. That’s refreshingly original.