Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks during the Tea Party Republican Debate held at the Florida State Fairgrounds, in Tampa, Florida on September 12, 2011. UPI/Christina Mendenhall | License Photo
Texas Gov. Rick Perry's slide in public opinion polls among Republicans vying to be the party's presidential nominee is challenger Herman Cain's gain.
Cain, who claimed a recent Florida straw poll, has climbed into the top tier of candidates, tying with Perry behind front-runner Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, in one poll last week.
But the subplot in the Washington Post-ABC News poll is the direction Cain's campaign has taken -- rising 12 percentage points last month as Perry fell 13 percentage points during the same period.
That many disaffected Perry voters flocked to Cain and not Romney -- who polls the best against President Obama -- is telling for several reasons, the Christian Science Monitor said. Both Cain and Romney have economic proposals, but Cain's been promoting his while Romney strayed from his economic message to try to score points by challenging Perry over Social Security and immigration -- and conservatives still don't trust Romney.
Political analysts still say Cain is a long shot for the GOP nomination.
"There's a door open such that people are willing to look at him and his accomplishments," Republican pollster David Winston told The Washington Post. "Voters want candidates who say what they'll do and try to lay out solutions."
Cain, the Georgia businessman and former Godfather's Pizza chief executive officer, has given a strong performance in the debates and solid showing in straw polls, has leaped from 5 percent to 30 percent among Tea Party backers.
Political commentator Steven Schier, political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., said he sees an opportunity for Cain, perhaps not at the GOP nominee but as a running mate or Cabinet member in a Republican White House.
"I think he's got the brightest future prospects," Schier said.
"Cain's a fresh face, not a politician. He's a successful businessman and has been … articulate in debates," he said. "For all those reasons, I think that he has future possibilities."
Cain, speaking on Fox News, said he hadn't seen the poll results, but he wasn't surprised.
"We hadn't seen that yet, but that is great news. It says that the flavor of the week might have some substance. Black walnut isn't a flavor of the week," said Cain, referring to himself as well as his favorite ice cream flavor.
Cain has boasted he can lure a third of the African-American vote from President Obama, which if true, could upend electoral calculations in 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"I am confident, based upon black people that I run into, black people that used to call my radio show, black people that have signed up on my Web site to support me," Cain said. "I believe, quite frankly, that my campaign … will garner a minimum of a third of the black vote in this country and possibly more."
Leading his position papers is his popular and easily remembered "9-9-9" economic plan, which would overhaul the tax code and institute a 9 percent corporate tax, a 9 percent income tax and a 9 percent national sales tax.
Besides taking Obama to task for his policies, Cain also chided the president for his comments during a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner in which he told the audience, "I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do, CBC. "
Besides his catchy 9-9-9 tax policy, Cain has argued that "growing this economy is what's foremost on the minds of black Americans, Hispanic Americans, all Americans."
He's quick to play up his lack of experience inside the Beltway.
"I am the only non-politician on this stage tonight," Cain said during the Tampa, Fla., debate, "and I believe that America has become a nation of crises. That's why I want to be president of the United States of America."
Cain, 65, was born in Memphis and raised in Georgia before civil rights legislation was passed. He was the first in his family to go to college and earn a degree, which landed him in the U.S. Navy as a systems analyst. After earning his master's, Cain joined Coca Cola as a business analyst, then worked his way up at Pillsbury, where he rescued failing divisions, including Godfather's Pizza.
In the public sector, Cain was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, ran a losing U.S. Senate campaign in Georgia, started a syndicated column, wrote several books and hosted "The Herman Cain Show." He's also a Baptist preacher and a gospel singer.
Cain and Gloria, his wife of 43 years, have two children and three grandchildren.
Another poll -- this one by the Gainesville, Fla., firm War Room Logistics -- saw Cain's fortunes on the rise, with support climbing to 24 percent, the Los Angeles Time said. That same poll also indicated 47 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said the more they hear about Cain, the more they like him.
But the Cain campaign isn't without issues or crises.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Cain said Occupy Wall Street protesters were coming across as "anti-capitalism" in their three-week protest against pay inequity, corporate greed and other social ills in the fabled New York financial district.
"Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself!" Cain told The Wall Street Journal. "It is not a person's fault because they succeeded. It is a person's fault if they failed. And so this is why I don't understand these demonstrations and what is it that they're looking for."
Also troubling to some observers are the departures of Cain's well-regarded communications director and her deputy.
And now, as he has become a serious contender, Cain apparently has taken himself off the stump for a couple of weeks to promote his new book, "This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House," The Christian Science Monitor reported. Cain won't be back in the key state of Iowa until November -- scant time to campaign, given the topsy-turvy status of the Republican primary calendar.
The New York Times noted "19 of the 31 days of October are blank" on Cain's public campaign calendar and asked whether Cain "has any particular plan to seize this moment, beyond using the attention to sell books."