Cain earned a B.A. in mathematics at Morehouse College, then worked as a civilian ballistics analyst for the U.S. Navy while earning his M.S. in computer science from Purdue University. He spent the rest of his pre-political life in the food and restaurant industries, where he held management and consulting positions in Coca-Cola, Pillsbury, and Burger King. He became president and CEO of Godfather's Pizza in 1986, a position he would hold for ten years - transforming the failed pizza company into a highly profitable national chain.
Opposition to Clinton Health Plan and Emergence as a Political Leader:
The first indication of Cain's conservatism came in 1993, when as the recently-selected CEO of the National Restaurant Association he publicly confronted President Bill Clinton during a nationally televised town hall meeting regarding his health care plan. Cain argued that the plan would place an unfair burden on restaurants, which tend to be small businesses with a very narrow profit margin. Aggressive, confident, and very well-prepared, Cain caught the president off-guard and is sometimes credited as having played a key role in the defeat of the Clinton health care plan.
Populist Vision and Role in the Tea Party Movement:
After nearly 30 years in the food and restaurant industry, Cain left the private sector in 1996 to focus on life as a writer, speaker, and conservative policy advocate. He wrote four books, took on a part-time ministry role at a suburban Baptist church, began writing a regular newspaper column, and hosted an Atlanta talk radio show. Cain made a low-profile run for the 2000 presidential election and a high-profile but unsuccessful U.S. Senate run in 2004 before emerging in 2012 as a viable and popular presidential candidate.
Views on American Muslims and Church-State Separation:
Unfortunately, the most relevant and distinctive element of Cain's 2012 Republican presidential run has been his persistent Islamophobia. He was the only Republican presidential candidate to argue that local governments may legally ban mosques, indicated that he would not hire Muslims in his administration if elected, and often referred to the threat he believed Sharia law posed to the United States. After meeting with a Muslim organization in July 2011, Cain apologized to Muslim communities for the inflammatory nature of his remarks but indicated that his policy positions with respect to Muslims had not changed.
Views on Immigration:
Cain drew criticism for July 2011 remarks in which he suggested that the U.S.-Mexico border be protected by an electrified Great Wall of China fortified by an alligator-filled moat. While his proposal sounds ridiculous on its face, Cain has refused to distance himself from it or suggest that it was in any way less than serious - and its violent imagery is troubling. Also troubling, but much less unusual among Republicans, is his opposition to the DREAM Act.
Views on Abortion and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":
Cain supports a U.S. constitutional amendment banning abortion in all cases, including rape or incest. But he was the only Republican candidate in the first GOP debate to clearly state that he would not reinstate "don't ask, don't tell" if elected, arguing that he "wouldn't create a distraction trying to turn it over as president" and that "our men and women have too many other things to be concerned about."
Views on the Civil Rights Movement:
Cain has accused the black civil rights community of enabling voter fraud by opposing controversial voter ID initiatives, arguing in a May 2011 speech that "when you have civil rights organizations who want to jump up and start talking about how [voter ID proposals are] in violation of civil rights ... all they're trying to do is protect the voter fraud that they know is going on." While other Republican presidential candidates tend to support voter ID proposals, only Cain has suggested that civil rights opposition to these proposals represents an intentional collusion with voter fraud.