TAMPA, Fla.—Herman Cain is thinking about running for president, even though it’s likely you’ve never heard of him.
And that’s OK — at least right now — for the black Republican who has become a sought after speaker on the Tea Party circuit. The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza says he’s going to build a grassroots coalition of supporters from the bottom up, if he decides to run, and if the Tea Party movement in 2010 is any indication, Republicans won’t be looking to nominate a household name for president in 2012.
“They’re ready for a non-establishment candidate,” Cain, casually dressed in a blue shirt and slacks, said here in Florida during an interview Thursday after addressing an enthusiastic crowd at a “Spending Revolt” rally. “I will run proudly as a non-establishment candidate. I think the public has an appetite for a non-establishment candidate.”
Though he may not be well-known on the national stage, the stage 4 Cancer survivor and chairman of the Hermanator PAC is a star among the conservative grassroots. Activists who showed up to the Americans for Prosperity’s “Spending Revolt” bus tour this week didn’t hide their admiration.
“He’s a beautiful package,” said Bob Prescott, a Jacksonville man selling campaign buttons, while Cain addressed an audience in Tampa. Prescott said he’s heard the Tea Party star speak multiple times and would support a Cain bid in 2012.
During multiple stops Thursday to talk about wasteful government spending, Cain was careful not to speak about his political ambitions, as Americans for Prosperity does not endorse candidates and is strict about keeping their events non-partisan.
But that didn’t stop the Orlando crowd from applauding when Cain mentioned his desire for a new occupant in the White House. “I’m not announcing anything,” he said to laughter. “I’m just saying.”
Cain hosts a daily radio show in Georgia and travels regularly with an aide to Tea Party events, where he’s cultivating a fan base. At one bus stop Thursday, a woman held up a “Cain 2012” sign. At another event, a woman wore a shirt with the same message.
Cain is on the board of Morehouse College, and was recently asked to be on the board of the Tea Party Patriots — but he turned them down — as the umbrella group received a $1 million dollar donation. (Cain says he doesn’t know who the donor is.)
NEXT: Three considerations that will factor into Cain’s decision to run for president