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Six things you don't know about Herman Cain


FTN - Herman CainBefore Herman Cain announced his candidacy for president of the United States, just 21% of Republicans had ever heard of him, according to a Gallup poll in March. This week, a new poll showed nearly 80% of Republicans recognize the former pizza baron's name. As Gallup put it, "This is the largest gain in recognition for any GOP presidential candidate Gallup has tracked this year."

The gain, of course, coincides with Cain's remarkable ascent to the top of the crowded Republican field in the past few weeks; a feat that has shocked the media, the GOP establishment, and especially his political rivals.

Mention Cain and you're likely to hear something about his role as Godfather's Pizza CEO or his stint as a talk radio host. He's gotten a lot of buzz from his 999 economic plan and his irreverent political ads. People tend to like that Cain is a political novice who has never held public office, and they are attracted to his optimism and his affable personality.

But there is much yet to learn about Cain, which is why many are reluctant to call him the official frontrunner.

Click on the "next" button at the top right of the page for six things you may not know.

Six things you don't know about Herman Cain

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain signs a supporter's '999' sign after unveiling his 'Opportunity Zone' economic plan in front of the Michigan Central Station, an abandoned train depot, October 21, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Cain at one point said he could envision himself supporting Barack Obama's candidacy "under the right circumstances."

Herman Cain

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution in March of 2008, Cain said he was surprised by Mr. Obama's success. "His gift is the gift of oratory. That's not just the ability to speak, but the ability to connect with people," Cain is quoted as saying, adding that Mr. Obama would have to "put some meat on the bones."

When asked point blank if he could ever support the Democrat, Cain replied, "Yeah, I could under the right circumstances. If he showed me that he really was serious about reaching across the aisle."

Cain didn't end up supporting Mr. Obama.

Instead he offered a lukewarm endorsement of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, writing, "Anyone who wishes to find a reason not to vote for Romney can easily find one. But the reasons to vote for him are far more compelling."

Cain cited Romney's business experience, his role in helping to turn around the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the fact that Romney had "spent more of his career outside of government than inside."

After Romney dropped out of the race, Cain ended up falling in line behind the eventual GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain.

Six things you don't know about Herman Cain

Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain addresses the crowd during a campaign stop in Detroit, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011. AP

Cain once urged the Republican Party to groom Tiger Woods for a possible run for president.

In late 2006, Herman Cain thought the crop of 2008 GOP contenders were "as inspiring as Saturday's leftovers for Monday's lunch."

"No more leftovers, no more cold sandwiches," Cain wrote in an editorial that ran in the Lincoln Journal Star, continuing, "just wide-eyed visions of spicy catfish with a dash of Tabasco. Which leads us to the 2016 presidential race. And Eldrick 'Tiger' Woods."

Woods, then just 30 years old (and long before his marital scandal), was someone Cain thought would inspire the nation.

"His personal attributes and accomplishments on the golf course point to a candidate who will be a problem solver, not a politician," Cain wrote.

Six things you don't know about Herman Cain


Cain considered running for U.S. Senate in Nebraska in 2000, but decided against it after saying he was "not a social-issue crusader."

FTN - Herman Cain

By the late 1990s, Herman Cain was fairly well established the Republican Party after famously challenging then President Bill Clinton's health care reform initiative in 1994. He was a respected businessman in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was not only the CEO of Godfather's Pizza, but also held the high profile position as the head of the National Restaurant Association.

It made sense that Nebraska Republicans courted the successful businessman to run for Senator Bob Kerrey's (D-NE) Senate seat in 2000.

After some consideration, Cain declined to run, explaining to a trade publication, Nation's Restaurant News, "I have concluded that if I ran and won, that that would not be a good vehicle for me to express my views. And you know I have a few."

He also told the publication that he was unsure if all his views would mesh with voters.

"Too many people in the electorate are single-issue voters," he commented, "and to try and cater to the single-issue voters and the single-issue pockets out there felt like I was compromising my beliefs. As an example, with the pro-life and pro-abortion debate, the most vocal people are on the ends. I am pro-life with exceptions, and people want you to be all or nothing." He added, "I am not a social-issue crusader. I am a free-enterprise crusader."

This will likely confuse conservative voters who are already skeptical of Cain's views on abortion.

Cain did go onto run a losing campaign for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Georgia in 2004. He also briefly sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2000.

Six things you don't know about Herman Cain

In a few short weeks, former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain has gone from an afterthought to a top Republican presidential contender. Tony Guida reports on the man behind the "9-9-9" mantra and why he is catching on.

In that 2000 presidential run he cited former professional wrestler-turned-politician, Jesse Ventura, as having paved the way.

Herman Cain: From long-shot to frontrunner

Cain formed an exploratory committee to test the presidential waters before the 2000 presidential election, even traveling to early states Iowa and New Hampshire.

The political novice told his hometown newspaper, the Omaha World Herald, "I believe there are different ways to run."

His inspiration? Ventura, the former pro wrestler who shocked the nation when he beat out establishment candidates in the 1998 race for Minnesota Governor.

"Nobody expected Jesse Ventura to win the governor's race of Minnesota. What I want to accomplish doesn't require me to go out and raise a kajillion dollars," Cain explained.

Eventually Cain would announce just a few months later that he would not run. "The two biggest things I had not anticipated was how long it takes to build an organization and how long it takes to raise the money," Cain told the World Herald. "It's not practical."

Six things you don't know about Herman Cain

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain arrives onstage to address the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. Herman Cain thinks Rick Perry is a good governor, Newt Gingrich is brilliant and Michele Bachmann is a very nice lady. What about Mitt Romney? Nice hair. AP Photo/Joe Burbank

Think Cain's ads are wacky? Turns out he's used the same strategy before.

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain arrives onstage to address the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. Herman Cain thinks Rick Perry is a good governor, Newt Gingrich is brilliant and Michele Bachmann is a very nice lady. What about Mitt Romney? Nice hair.

Like it or hate it, the latest Cain ad entitled "Now is the time for action!" has gone viral.

More than a million people have gone on the campaign's YouTube page to watch Cain chief of staff Mark Block take a dramatic drag from his cigarette.

Other Cain ads are equally bizarre, like the 4-minute long western themed ad mocking President Obama called "He Carried Yellow Flowers."

While the political ads Cain commissioned for his unsuccessful Senate campaign were more traditional, this is not Cain's first foray into odd ads.

Just months after Cain took the helm of a fledgling Godfather's Pizza, the company's 1987 ad campaign featuring the "Studney Twins" caught the eye of advertising trade magazines.

"One is an expressionless middle-aged white man, the other a black teen-ager in perpetual motion. In unison they say they share the same tastes in music, women and pizza," Advertising Age magazine wrote.

A Godfather's executive explained the ad campaign to ADWEEK magazine, "Because of the limited advertising dollars we have, we need to stay a little over the line, bizarre, wacky and offbeat."

Sound familiar?

Six things you don't know about Herman Cain

Republican presidential candidate businessman Herman Cain speaks during a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. Pool,AP Photo/Scott Eells

Long before he surprised the GOP establishment by wowing voters in 2011, Cain was often called an up and comer in Republican politics.

Cain was one of 14 members who made up the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform in 1995-6 at the request of then Senator Jack Kemp (R-NY). Their goal was to figure out a way to best scrap the U.S. tax code and replace it with a flat tax.

While the commission's recommendations were never enacted, Cain won over Kemp, who told reporters Cain would make a good candidate for national office.

According to the Omaha World Herald, Kemp declared, "America needs Herman Cain." He added, "I've never served with anyone who knew better what this country is all about and what it could be."

Nearly a decade later after years of toying with running for political office, Cain finally decided to make it official with a 2004 bid for U.S. Senate after one of Georgia's seats opened up.

He would eventually lose the GOP nomination to a more established Johnny Isakson, but Cain impressed many with his long shot campaign. Look no further than the Augusta Chronicle's 2004 endorsement, published days before the primary vote:

"Cain has all the makings of the kind of candidate you've always wished for: someone you can get excited about; someone you just know is unafraid to fight your battles for you; someone who knows what it takes to make a payroll...And, as an outspoken black conservative who is nothing short of exceptional, Cain is liable to turn conventional thinking on its ear in Washington...Despite being outspent and coming in largely unknown in politics, Herman Cain has become a phenomenon in Georgia during this campaign. There is a buzz out there about his insurgent candidacy. Why? Because he's the kind of candidate you've always wished for - someone whose light is so bright it will melt away your cynicism. That's the stuff of a superstar."