Journalism in the Public Interest

Our Guide to the Best Coverage of Herman Cain

Want a feel for what The Hermanator Experience™ is all about? Start here.


Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

As noted below, this guide has been updated. This guide was originally published on September 13, 2011.

This is the latest installment in a series of reading guides on 2012 presidential candidates. Here are the other guides.

The Basics

As the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain touts himself as the “non-politician” candidate of the 2012 race. He impressed viewers in the first GOP debate, but he has struggled recently to remain in the picture.

Cain, 65, is a staunch conservative who promises to use “common sense” business solutions to revive the U.S. economy. He wants to dramatically reduce taxes, cut government spending and cut back on government regulation of business. He also opposes legalized abortions and affirmative action and says he “supports traditional marriage.”

Cain is also one of the most colorful Republican candidates. Known to friends as "The Hermanator," he has trademarked the phrase “The Hermanator Experience” and occasionally talks about himself in the third person. (“Let me tell you something about Herman Cain!”) In a detailed piece on Cain’s political rise, Slate’s David Weigel describes how the Tea Party has embraced Cain because he’s a political outsider. “That's the oddity of the Cain campaign: He's a man out of time,” Weigel writes. “In the 1990s and 2000s, there was no easy way to transition from The Man Who Invented the Hot Slice into politics. In 2011, the Republican electorate wants to hear from anyone who's not a politician.” The Atlantic reported that Cain attended more than 40 Tea Party rallies last year. But while Cain won the first Tea Party straw poll in February, a recent Gallup poll shows Cain’s Tea Party support has fallen to 6 percent.

His background:

Cain first grabbed the national spotlight in 1994, when he was credited with taking down Bill Clinton’s health-care reform plan. During a town hall meeting, Cain publicly challenged Clinton’s estimate of how much the employer mandate, which would have required all employers to provide their workers with health care, would cost businesses. Cain then wrote an open letter with his calculation of the cost of an employer mandate to Godfather’s Pizza.

At the time, Cain was president of the National Restaurant Association and held a seat on the board of directors of the Kansas City Federal Reserve [PDF]. He went on to work as an adviser to the vice-presidential campaign of Jack Kemp in 1996. Kemp described Cain as “a black guy who stands up with the voice of Othello, the looks of a football player, the English of Oxfordian quality and the courage of a lion."

In an interview with the National Review, Cain cited Kemp as a major influence in his political life. In 2004, Cain ran for the GOP nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, coming in second with 26.2 percent of the vote.

Cain points to his success bringing Godfather’s Pizza back from the verge of bankruptcy as a sign that he’d come to Washington with practical solutions for economic recovery. PolitiFact found that, while Godfather’s wasn’t literally filing for bankruptcy, Cain did help stabilize the company financially “by uniting the franchisees, overhauling the chain's advertising, and getting his team focused on its core mission: pizza.”

Views, promises and controversy:

Cain has been promoting his “9-9-9 plan,” which would create a flat tax of 9 percent for corporations and individuals, and as a national sales tax. In a video promoting the plan, Cain says that “our tax code is the 21st-century version of slavery.”

(Update, 10/18) Analyses across the political spectrum have found that the 9-9-9 plan would significantly increase the deficit and leave inadequate funding for Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare — Talking Points Memo has a good roundupof evaluations from outfits ranging from The National Review on the right to the Center for American Progress on the left. Cain claims the plan would be “revenue neutral” – in other words, that the decreased tax burden would energize the economy so much that the government’s total tax revenue wouldn’t decline. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy found that, on closer inspection, Cain’s plan generates more revenue than expected, since it doesn’t let businesses deduct wages and salaries from their gross income for tax purposes. But, he speculates, business would shift much of the tax burden onto workers, leading Cassidy to call Cain’s plan “an eighteen-per-cent plan disguised as a nine-per-cent plan.” Citing an academic analysis by USC’s Edward D. Kleinbard, Cassidy writes:

Ultimately, rather than paying nine per cent of their income in income taxes, workers would face a rate of close to eighteen per cent. Half of these taxes the I.R.S. would collect directly. The other half employers would deduct from workers’ paychecks and pass on to the government.

Cain has also advocated privatizing Social Security, following the “Chilean model.” Mother Jones has a piece on how Chile transitioned to private pension accounts in 1981, a move that’s gotten mixed reviews.

Cain is against abortion and has said that Planned Parenthood was founded in order to “help kill black babies before they came into the world.”

Cain came under fire for saying that communities have the right to ban the construction of mosques. He later issued a statement apologizing for his remarks.

Following the money:

You can view information on Cain’s campaign contributors at his page. As of June, he’d raised only about $2.6 million, a small sum compared to Mitt Romney’s $18.4 million and President Obama’s $46.3 million.

The only material you present on the Chilean privatized pension system is Mother Jones?

Awww, you folks can write much better copy than this…  Just not up to quality of writing I’m used to seeing from you’all.

Great.  Yet another guy who firmly believes that governments should be run like companies and companies should get free reign over people.  Just what we needed.

Also, what’s with the flat/sales tax model?  Isn’t that just the VAT in Europe?  Isn’t Europe kind of on the ropes and almost entirely dependent on us?

And what about real issues?  Where do any of these candidates stand on warrantless tracking and wiretapping?  Where do they stand on the Intellectual Property bills floating through Congress that criminalize downloading without explicit authorization?  Where do they stand on torture, the wars, the running of the wars, or, y’know, anything other than the standard talking points?

We’ve had almost three years of Obama’s answer to those sorts of questions, and I think I’d like some advance notice, this time around.

The “real issues” -

warrantless tracking and wiretapping
Intellectual Property
torture and wars

Yeah, us real people wake up every morning thinking about those real issues. First thing on our minds. Taxes, jobs, retiring before we’re dead, phhhtt. Those aren’t real issues. We never think about them.

Contrary to what the baggers and the gop want everyone to believe government can not be run like a business.

Government does not run on a profit.

Lyris- when the government makes a profit it is called a S-U-R-P-L-U-S! “The government can’t be run like a business”? Really? Is that why we have a president that’s never had a JOB trying to run the worlds largest enterprise? Barry couldn’t run a lemonade stand. Herman at least has ideas and leadership experience. He doesn’t need Jeffery Imelt and Jimmy Hoffa telling him every move to make, while they squeeze our tax payer dollars from the administration like water from a sponge.

Larry L. Clifton

Sep. 13, 2011, 8:38 p.m.

Well I’ll try again….The love affair w/Perry/Romney is soooo obvious. Cain is 2nd place in the poll and 1st in positive intensity….yet many political writers say his chances are nil. What? It is becoming very clear the the media…left and right…want to be ‘king-makers’ and decide for all of us who can and can not be electable. Thanks but no thanks. The American people, I hope, will be the ones who decide that. As often as you repeat your Perry/Romney mantra and you dismiss Cain, Paul and Bachmann….we will still be the ones who make the call. If we allow the media to favor and pick the candidates….well that is how we ended up w/the present President. Stand up for free choice so we are not stuck, once again, voting for the lessor of evils. It is up to free-thinking independent Americans to avoid another travesty. Support Cain and the FairTax.

Fedup. How many businesses run the world’s largest Military force and make a profit? How many businesses would care if their employees were starving to death for lack of the ability to earn a paycheck? People in this country decided a long time ago that we care about those less fortunate than the rest of us. Is that a profitable enterprise? If you want to run the U.S.A. like a business at a profit then you could quit inspecting the food supply, construction. Guess you could turn all the highways into toll roads to pay for roads and bridges. Charge more for gov’t services. But what about education? You gonna make that profitable?

Todd, the destruction of human rights in the “Land of the Free” should be pretty close to first on your mind.  It is, after all, the very reason we have this country.  Without it, why not just close shop and give the keys to China?  Taxes are pretty low, there, and you only get arrested and beaten if you read anything contrary to the Communist Party’s official story.

Fedup, here’s a quick research project for you:  What are the oldest companies in the world that have more than, say, a thousand employees?  What are the oldest cities in the world?  Compare their ages and the revenue they generate.

Until corporations start outperforming even small towns on a consistent, long-term basis, running a country like a business is like driving a car as if it were a bicycle.  It’s similar in some ways, but don’t expect it to work more than briefly.

your real name

Sep. 14, 2011, 12:05 p.m.

“Life is like a box of pizza.”—Herman Gump

Herman Cain is exactly what this country needs. Look around you.  Look at the mess this country is in.  Look where we are headed.  Look at our founding fathers and what this country was based on when it was established and look at it now.  How anyone can find fault with Herman Cain is beyond me. He is by far the best person running for the presidency.  He is an All Around American first and formost. He is a business man, a Christian, a family man.  He has good morals, values and ideas.  In my opinion he represents the majority people of this country as a people of this country. He is in the race for Americians and he is the one to beat Obama. We need change alright.  Let the Average American have a shot at giving us that change. Herman Cain listens to Americans. Most of his beliefs are as the average American does.  His ideas are good.  Change?  We need it and we need to give this country back to the American people. I believe Herman is the best man to do that.  VOTE HERMAN CAIN IN 2012.

no to Herman Cain…

if he is against abortions, then all male DNA needs to be taken so we can go after the men to help PAY for their offspring.

What is his position on gun control?

So we are going to get rid of SS and throw everyone completely to the mercy of Wall Street? How is your 401K/IRA doing right now?  Pretty sure that $1 is going to buy a cup of coffee in 10-20 years huh?  The Cato Institute has been pushing this SS privatization (they are being funded by Wall Street) and everyone talks about Chile, however they revised their system in 2008 to re-introduce a government system as many were left unable to fund their own pensions or did not get enough work to qualify.  Also, the fees being paid out were very high for the rate of return.  I guess Chile was a huge success if you were a financial company, but pretty much sucked if you actually had to work for a living on a farm.  The only winners of following this model would be Wall Street.  Crony Capitalism strikes again.  The issue with our SS system is the ratio of workers to retirees projected out due to Baby Boomers and the costs they would have to bear are unbearable.  To fix it you need to grow the economy and encourage skilled workers to immigrate to the USA.  Making it private will just make it as bad as healthcare, unaffordable for most.

Charles Lupton

Oct. 9, 2011, 10:35 a.m.

You missed his time at Aquila when talking about scandals. Killing you employees pensions and having to settle 5 lawsuits out of court is a bit of a scandal that is recent and seems to be forgotten. *sarcasm* Wouldn’t want to tarnish his business cred though…*end sarcasm*

999 is also a very regressive tax that will hurt the poor and the middle class. It is a “flat tax” not a “fair tax” as he originally advocated and then flip-flopped on.

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