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Herman Cain launches run for the White House

May 21, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(Grant Blankenship, AP Photo/The…)

Reporting from Washington —

Herman Cain, a conservative radio host and former business executive, became the latest Republican to officially enter the 2012 presidential campaign on Saturday.

Making a play for the "tea party" vote, Cain said at his Atlanta kick-off that America needs a new generation of "defending fathers" to protect the Constitution.

"We can take this entitlement society to an empowerment society," he told the crowd at Centennial Olympic Park.

A YouTube video released in concert with his kick-off includes scenes of "tea party" rallies, with Cain saying "the sleeping giant, we the people, have awakened."

Cain, 65, was CEO of the Godfather Pizza chain until 1996, before leading the National Restaurant Association. He's never served in elected office; his only previous campaign was for the Senate in Georgia in 2004, when he finished second in the GOP primary.

He is a decided underdog, among the least well-known Republicans who have either entered or are considering runs. But he has gained attention since his performance in the May 5 South Carolina debate.

A focus group immediately after the forum, broadcast on the Fox News Channel, declared Cain the clear winner ahead of the four other candidates. He also won a straw poll vote of "tea party" activists at an Arizona gathering in February.

Cain, who is African American, invoked Martin Luther King at his announcement as he predicted being declared the winner in November 2012, saying the nation could then say, "Thank God almighty, we are free at last."

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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