In 2006, Cain was diagnosed with stage IV liver and colon cancer. Cain often refers to his illness and subsequent treatment when discussing the need for fiscal reform of health care, saying, "We don't have a health care crisis in America, we have a health care cost crisis in America, and 'Obamacare' would have killed me. I'd be dead."
He has been cancer-free since January 2007.
A strong proponent for conservative fiscal reform; Cain has put forth the "9-9-9 plan," his answer to the economic woes facing Americans. In fact, it has become somewhat of a slogan. The plan calls for a nine percent business tax, a nine percent individual tax, and a nine percent national sales tax that he says will create $430 billion in revenue and 6 million jobs.
The merits of his plan still need to be examined and raise issues regarding existing taxes, states' rights, and the ability for such a plan to be passed through Congress.
Even so, his plan has resonated with many voters, garnering him an unexpected early win in the Florida Straw Poll.
Since his entry into the race, Cain has been a controversial figure regarding Muslim Americans and religious freedom, saying he would be "cautious" about allowing a Muslim to serve in his Cabinet. He also came out in support of a community's "right" to ban the building of a mosque in their neighborhood.
Cain later met with Muslims. Describing the meeting, he said, "While I stand by my opposition to the interference of shariah law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim Americans and their friends."
His road to the White House may be dependent on the economy being the single most important issue of the 2012 elections, and the hope that voters see his business savvy as necessary to turn the economy around.
Cain has been married to his wife, Gloria, for 43 years and the couple has two children and three grandchildren.