Herman Cain: His Life, His Politics, His Future

Herman Cain hangs in at the top of the polls. We’ll look at Mr. 9-9-9, his life, his politics, and where he’s headed.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain delivers a keynote address during the Western Republican Leadership Conference Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP)

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain delivers a keynote address during the Western Republican Leadership Conference Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP)

“Flash in the pan,” they said of Herman Cain. And he may yet be. But if it’s a flash, it’s a long one. “Mr. 9-9-9” in the GOP field of presidential contenders has gone up and up in the polls.

This week, he’s number one, grabbing 25 percent support in the latest CBS/New York Times poll. Above Romney’s twenty-one. Rick Perry’s six. Michelle Bachman’s two. What’s Herman Cain got that’s working in that number? A simple outsider’s appeal. A rags to riches story. Great delivery. Mitt Romney as an opponent. And he can sing.

This hour On Point: We’re looking again at Herman Cain.

-Tom Ashbrook


David Graham, staff writer for Newsweek. His latest cover story is “Citizen Cain.”

Steve Jordon, a reporter for the Omaha World Herald, he’s written about Herman Cain since 1986.

David Rice, a professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

C Segment – Rick Perry’s Tax Plan

Dave Montgomery, Austin bureau chief for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he’s been covering Governor Rick Perry’s run for the White House



Herman Cain is now number one in the polls and calling for some serious changes to the country on the campaign trail. In part, it is his life story that has put him to the front of the GOP pack.

“He has a fantastic story of Horatio Alger story,” said David Graham, a writer for Newsweek. “He rose from live in a [housing] project when he was a small child, to being a multimillionaire CEO. He’s incredibly charismatic in person, gives a great speech- – never speaks without notes, and talks in simple terms that connect with a lot of folks.”

The biggest line on Cain’s resume is his time as the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. He turned the company profitable, but that came after major layoffs and the closing of many franchises, said Steve Jordon, a reporter with the Omaha World Herald, who has followed Cain since the 1980s. “[Cain] said that franchise holders had to remodel their franchises and bring them up to speed,” Jordon said. “Those who couldn’t were cut out.”

It was during his years in Omaha while he was Godfather’s CEO, that he also branched out into public speaking, Jordon said. “That’s when he developed this whole ‘Hermanator’ idea and then he also gave concerts,” Jordon said. He’s still respected in Omaha, but Cain told Jordon that he “still has to work hard to convince people that there’s more between his ears than pepperoni.”

Cain is not the first black conservative to run for president, but his candidacy has taken on a new resonance since 2008. “With the election of Barack Obama there was a lot of discussion, and perhaps pining for and wishing that we were post-racial. And we’ve found that that’s not quite the case,”: said David Rice, a professor at Morehouse College.  “When we have black folk of different ilk presenting themselves and we get to look at what race means to them, what ace means in their narrative, it allows us to be responsibly complex in how we look at black folks.”


Caller: Charlie for Evans, GA

I’m a Herman Cain supporter. Have been for a long time.

Tom Ashbrook: Why?

Charlie: Several reasons: one, he going to get rid of things that impede my business. I sell heavy construction equipment and the EPA kills people in this business. Barack Obama’s economic policies have killed people in this business, small businesses. All the people that have gotten money out of the things he’s pass have been large corporations, no small construction businesses have gotten anything. And he preaches responsibility. That, to me, is the most important thing. We have a welfare state now, and we have to get rid of it.

Caller: Steven from Dothan, Alabama

Herman Cain, I’ve heard him on WSB for years, since he’s been doing the evening programming. He’s njot somebody nothing new. I’ve never though of him as a political, I want to get in office. But when you look at everything that is going on. And you look at the current crop, and you look at the ‘profession politicians,’ to quote someone’s phrase. If we keep doing the same thing, can we expect different results? We’re 15 trillion in debt, our ratings are going down, our manufacturing is going nowhere, our tax code is three million plus words — nobody makes sense of it. Everyone is out for themselves that’s in politics. I haven’t seen him once give me the flavor that he’s [Cain] doing this for himself. Maybe he’s stroking his own ego, but at least he talks the truth. He doesn’t do the double speak. He not going to shake you hand with one hand, and pick your back pocket with the other hand. I haven’t seen that side of him. It’s something that’s refreshing. Will he make it all the way through? I don’t know. But will he keep the dialogue focused on what is really important. Yeah. He comes from an interesting, different background. That is nice.

From Tom’s Reading List

Newsweek “Cain seems determinedly undaunted by political practicalities, however heavily they weigh against his chances. He remains a black Republican in a predominantly white party who has only a fledgling organization and no ground game in the crucial early primary and caucus states.”

Omaha World Herald “As a national candidate seeing a nation with the same problems, he said, he has assessed problems, set priorities for solutions and, if elected, would form a team to put them into effect.”

New Herman Cain Campaign Ad

Herman Cain Questions Bill Clinton


Imagine (There’s No Pizza) by Herman Cain

I Am America by Krista Branch

This is the Day by Herman Cain

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Oct 13, 2015
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, Syrian armored vehicles get ready to move near the village of Morek in Syria. The Syrian army has launched an offensive this week in central and northwestern Syria aided by Russian airstrikes. (AP)

Russia’s big power play in Syria, the US response, and where this could go.

Oct 13, 2015
The bare landscape of Crimea, Ukraine, offers little protection in warfare, and German infantrymen hug the ground to escape enemy fire, Jan. 7, 1942.  (AP)

We’ll talk with historian Tim Snyder, who sees resource wars behind past genocides and says climate change now raises the danger again.

Oct 12, 2015
A portion of the cover of Larissa MacFarquhar's new book, "Strangers Drowning." (Penguin Press / Courtesy The Publishers)

An extreme commitment to others. Larissa MacFarquhar joins us with stories of those who sacrifice almost everything to do good.

Oct 12, 2015
Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman talks on his phone outside the newly constructed jail as prisoners are transferred into the facility in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP)

Step one in sentencing reform: 6,000 federal prisoners will go free at the end of this month. We’ll dig in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Meet The Interns, Fall 2015
Friday, Oct 9, 2015

Meet our Fall 2015 interns! (Better late than never, right?)

More »
Our Week In The Web: October 9, 2015
Friday, Oct 9, 2015


More »
Rep. Daniel Webster: ‘I’m Gonna Sell This Message’
Tuesday, Oct 6, 2015

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his retirement and resignation from his position last month, it surprised both his Party and the Washington political establishment.

More »