Former Pizza Chief Herman Cain Announces 2012 Presidential Bid [Video]

Herman Cain, one-time CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and Tea Party favourite, announces his candidacy for the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nomination.

Before a crowd of several hundred supporters and flanked by Secret Servicemen, Godfathers Pizza savior and "American Black Conservative" radio talk show host Herman Cain announces his bid to run for president of the United State in the 2012 Election under the GOP ticket at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, GA. Photo: Kevin Dotson/Flickr

The Herminator is officially running for the GOP presidential nomination! Although, as far as we can tell, there is no truth to the rumor that his official campaign slogan will be “Yes we Cain.”

Former pizza company CEO and conservative radio host Herman Cain made it official on Saturday, joining the small but growing roster of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

Cain, 65, who lives in suburban Atlanta, made his announcement at Atlanta’s Centennial Park, urging Americans frustrated by the country’s direction to read the Constitution. “Keep reading,” he said. “Don’t stop at life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”

He vowed the GOP will retake the Senate and the presidency, just as it regained control of the House in 2010. “We will take them back because you and I do not want this nation to become just another mediocre nation,” Cain said.

He said the nation needs to refocus on free-market principles. Cain, a favorite among many tea party activists, boasts a long business resume but has never held elected office.

Cain spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael said Saturday after his announcement that his lack of political experience will be a plus with many voters. “He is really not indebted to anyone” and has a history of success creating jobs, she said.

The Republican presidential field has been slow to gather but is beginning to fill out. Cain follows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Texas Rep. Ron Paul among better-known Republicans formally announcing presidential bids. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to announce his candidacy in Des Moines on Monday.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is seen as an almost certain candidate, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are also expected to join the race.

Some prominent Republicans nationally and in Iowa also have encouraged fiscal-focused conservatives such as Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to run. Other big-name Republicans, such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have not tipped their hands.

Cain must score big in this summer’s Ames straw poll if he is to be more than a sideshow in Iowa’s leadoff presidential caucuses, a Drake University political science professor said Saturday.

Dennis Goldford initially said Cain had no hope of opposing President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, then he backtracked. “You never say never in politics,” he said. “Let’s say his chances are highly improbable of winning the nomination.”

Carmichael countered that Cain is striving to first win the Ames straw poll, Aug. 13, and then use that showing of strength to win the caucuses, scheduled for Feb. 6. “It is imperative for us to perform well in Iowa,” Carmichael said. “Coming in first is important.”

So far, Cain has spent 22 days in Iowa and has participated in 33 events. He was the winner of a presidential straw poll in late March at Rep. Steve King’s Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines.

Cain has received gushing reaction to his speeches before conservative audiences in Iowa and to his performance in a nationally televised Republican debate in South Carolina on May 5.

Cain will return in early June to Iowa and visit frequently after that, Carmichael said.

Goldford said Cain will appeal to the populist portion of the tea party movement. But he faces political history that has seldom been kind to candidates that play the successful-businessman card without having held a state governorship or major national political office, such as the vice presidency, before they ran for president, Goldford said.

Carmichael sees Cain as the right person for a nation that faces high unemployment and unprecedented debt.

“He has an incredible resume filled with solving problems and creating jobs,” she said. “He is about a return to fiscal sanity.”

Cain on Saturday called on Americans to set goals. “The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals,” said Cain, whose announcement drew 800 viewers on his website’s live streaming video. “It lies in not having goals.”

Cain points to his own success story as a self-made businessman as the kind of opportunity America must continue to offer future generations. At 31, he joined the Pillsbury Co. and rose to vice president within three years.

He then turned his attention to Burger King, a Pillsbury subsidiary at the time, transforming 400 underperforming stores in the Philadelphia area into the best-performing region in the country. Next, he joined Godfather’s Pizza as CEO and president, taking it from the edge of bankruptcy to profitability in 14 months. He and investors eventually bought the pizza chain.

He is a relative novice politically. He first gained attention on the national political stage in 1994, when as chairman of the National Restaurant Association he challenged President Bill Clinton at a nationally televised town hall meeting about the impact of proposed health care reform on small businesses. He barnstormed the country opposing the plan.

In 2006, Cain was diagnosed with liver and colon cancer. He says he’s been cancer-free since 2007 and credits the nation’s health care system with keeping him alive. He says it’s one reason he’s so opposed to the health overhaul championed by Obama.

In 2010, he spoke at more than 40 tea party events and became popular on Twitter and In December 2010, he was the readers’ choice for the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee on the conservative Internet site, [via The Telegraph (UK), USA Today and CS Monitor]

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