Herman Cain announces presidential candidacy: Is he 2012's Teddy Roosevelt?

Businessman and talk radio host Herman Cain has never won a political race, and most voters have never heard of him. But among those who have, his favorability ratings are very high.

Jim Cole/AP
Presidential hopeful Republican businessman Herman Cain, who officially announced his candidacy Saturday May 21, speaks during a dinner sponsored by Americans for Prosperity April 29 in Manchester, N.H.

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.”

Herman Cain – talk radio host, businessman, and favorite of tea party groups – announced his candidacy for president Saturday at noon in a rally at Atlanta’s Centennial Park. Cain’s bid is the longest of long shots, as few GOP voters know who he is. His numbers in most polls hover in the low single digits.

He’s never won a political race. If he makes it to the Oval Office the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza would be the first president to have not held another elective office since Dwight D. Eisenhower. And unlike Ike, Cain didn’t win World War II.

But of all the GOP hopefuls Cain may be the best public speaker. With his booming voice and practiced delivery he comes across a bit like an African-American Teddy Roosevelt. On first exposure some voters can swoon.

“Cain creates enthusiasm among those who do know him ... and we learned in 2010 that fervent enthusiasm can make a real difference in voter turnout rates,” said Gallup poll editor-in-chief Frank Newport in a recent analysis.

Look at it this way: a May 17 Gallup survey found that Cain has only about 29 percent name recognition among self-described Republican voters. That’s bad at this stage in the game. It means barely more than a quarter of your most important target audience even knows that you exist.

So few voters listed Cain as their first presidential choice on a trail ballot in this poll that he only gets an asterisk in that category, denoting that he scored less than 0.5 percent.

But of those few voters who do know him, 71 percent have a favorable opinion, according to Gallup, and only 13 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Subtract the latter number from the former, and you get a “Positive Intensity” score of 58, says Gallup. That’s a really good such score.

“Cain ... receives the highest Positive Intensity Score, based on those who know him, of any candidate measured,” says Gallup.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato lists Cain with thumbs up on his Crystal Ball ranking of 2012 hopefuls. That means Sabato thinks Cain is gaining momentum.

Of course, Sabato puts Cain down in his fourth tier of candidates, with Texas congressman Ron Paul, ex-UN ambassador John Bolton, and other fringies. While Cain is wealthy and well-liked in the GOP base, and he's an African-American conservative, he’s got that never-been-elected-to-office problem, and he’s “too far right for [the] general election,” according to Sabato.

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