Herman Cain is not your average, run-of-the-mill candidate seeking the GOP nomination in 2012. A businessman, columnist, radio talk show host, minister and singer, he's best known as the former president and CEO of Godfather's Pizza who succeeded in turning the flailing company into one of the top pizza franchises in the country.
Cain is the only candidate never to have held public office in a field of governors, senators and congresspersons. With no foreign policy experience and very little political experience, he is relying on a business background and trademarked oratory style to catapult him into the Republican nomination.
Such a nomination would pit two black candidates against each other for the first time in American history.
Born in Memphis, Tenn., Cain grew up in Atlanta at the height of the civil rights movement. His rise to self-made millionaire encapsulates the "American Dream" and the story of his success is what he hopes will strike a chord with voters.
Cain grew up in a working poor family. His father worked three jobs; his mother was a domestic worker. Cain credits his parents with his success.
He earned a bachelor's degree from Morehouse College in mathematics and a master's degree in computer science from Purdue University. Cain worked at the U.S. Department of the Navy as a mathematician to help put himself through college.
After graduation, Cain worked at the Coca-Cola Company, followed by a job at the Pillsbury Company. Quickly climbing the corporate ladder, Cain served as vice president of systems and services.
Mid-career, Cain moved to Burger King and was eventually promoted to regional vice president. He transformed an underperforming region into one of the most profitable in the nation.
It was that success that led him to become, famously, the president and then, later, CEO of Godfather's Pizza. He is credited with salvaging the pizza chain while turning a huge profit in a short period of time.
Cain went on to serve as the president and later CEO of the National Restaurant Association. During his tenure, he was able to turn it into one of the most influential political action committees in Washington, D.C.
In 1993, he stepped onto the national political stage, challenging then-President Clinton during a live television town hall meeting. The subject was Clinton's national health care plan and its impact on small businesses.
When it came to the employer mandate, Cain asked, "If I'm forced to do this, what will I tell those people whose jobs I would have to eliminate?"
When Clinton said that he would be able to remain competitive and not lay off workers, Cain responded, "Mr. President, with all due respect, your calculation on what the impact would do, quite honestly, is incorrect."
It was a very public rebuke of Clinton's plan that was ultimately unsuccessful.
Cain caught the political bug, going on to serve as economic advisor to the Dole/Kemp campaign in 1996.
Cain launched two unsuccessful bids for public office. In 2000, he ran for president of the United States. He said his candidacy was one of ideas. In 2004, he ran for the U.S. Senate in the state of Georgia and was defeated in the Republican primary by Johnny Isakson.
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.