Who Is Herman Cain?

The outspoken corporate executive and Tea Party favorite explains why he could be the second black president.

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Potential GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain (Steve Pope/Getty Images)

 In his 2005 book, They Think You're Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It, Herman Cain commiserates with voters who have grown weary of Washington politics. Now he's petitioning that same electorate to support his (potential) bid to become the second black president.

So, who is he? The self-described ABC -- that's American Black Conservative -- is a former CEO of the Godfather's Pizza chain. He has also served stints as an Atlanta radio talk show host, a mathematician for the Department of the Navy and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. So far Cain, 65, is the only prospective GOP candidate to form a presidential exploratory committee.

While he's far from a household name, Cain's advocacy of smaller government, steep reductions in corporate taxes and the so-called FairTax plan, which would replace the federal tax code with a national consumption tax on retail sales, has made him a Tea Party favorite. He's gotten additional buzz over his penchant for making provocative, sometimes outrageous, statements, particularly where President Obama is concerned.

Although Cain has no political experience aside from a failed 2004 run for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, he is confident that his strong business background makes up for it. His experience rescuing Godfather's Pizza from bankruptcy, for example, has informed his plan for America's economic growth. And he says that his slow but steady grassroots ground game just might leave mainstream candidates eating his dust.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Root, Cain talks about race, policy and why he thinks you shouldn't rule out his chances of going head-to-head with Obama.

The Root: You made headlines this week with your comments about President Obama potentially hurting your chances of being elected: "Don't condemn me because the first black [president] was bad." In which ways do you think Obama is a bad president?

Herman Cain: Let's make sure we say his policies are bad. First, his economic policies have failed. We can't spend our way to prosperity. We have spent nearly a trillion dollars, and this economy has not been stimulated. He has promoted programs like Cash for Clunkers, which was a dismal failure, yet he tries to pretend now like it didn't happen. Second, he has broken a lot of promises that he made about transparency, for example, and about unemployment coming down.

The biggest failure, in my opinion, is the forced passage of the health care reform legislation. It was supposed to bring down costs, but it will not because it is not well-structured to begin with. It was supposed to increase accessibility, but it has not. When you have 1,000 companies ask for special exception waivers before it's fully rolled out, and they get those waivers, then something is terribly wrong with this legislation. I call that bad policy and bad leadership.

TR: At the Tea Party Patriots summit in Phoenix last month, you won the presidential live straw poll. Some critics have dismissed that as tokenism, claiming that Tea Party members only picked you as a foil for racism accusations, or that the Tea Party just wants its own version of a black candidate. What do you make of your support from the Tea Party and the skepticism surrounding it?