Nightly News   |  October 12, 2011

Who is Herman Cain?

From pizza executive to top-tier GOP presidential hopeful, Herman Cain’s stock is on the rise. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell has more on Cain and his 9-9-9 plan.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: As Chuck just reminded us, as we've now seen happen several times just this election cycle, polls come out showing a new GOP front-runner, then the scrutiny begins and so it begins in a big way tonight for Herman Cain . The man with that economic plan he calls 9-9-9 now for a time, at least, gets to sample what being number one feels like. Tonight NBC 's Kelly O'Donnell has more on the man of the moment .

KELLY O'DONNELL reporting: With his folksy, never been a politician appeal Herman Cain has caught fire.

Mr. HERMAN CAIN: A lot of people are taking a second look and they're saying, 'Maybe this long shot is not such a long shot.

O'DONNELL: At 65, Cain sells his self-made success and personal story. Son of a chauffeur and a maid, colon cancer survivor.

Mr. CAIN: I had a 30 percent chance of survival.

O'DONNELL: Cain climbed the corporate ladder at Burger King , then became CEO of the Godfather's Pizza chain.

Mr. CAIN: I've actually made hamburgers and pizzas, and had to sell them and hire crew members.

O'DONNELL: One simple catch phrase...

Mr. CAIN: 9-9-9.

O'DONNELL: ...repeated countless times helped him get noticed.

Mr. CAIN: My top priority is 9-9-9, jobs, jobs, jobs!

O'DONNELL: Cain wants to set a 9 percent tax rate for individuals, corporations and a new national sales tax . Critics say taxing everyday purchases would unfairly burden modest income families. Cain counters that it would lower your overall tax bill.

Mr. CAIN: The 9 -9-9 plan replaces payroll tax , capital gains tax, corporate income tax , personal income tax and the death tax .

O'DONNELL: Cain 's career expanded to talk radio host.

Mr. CAIN: It's the same principle of "we're going to tax those evil rich people more and more and more and more and more!"

O'DONNELL: Critics claim he's running a vanity campaign, spending more time on his book tour than the trail. And many say Cain is not a serious contender.

Mr. CHARLIE COOK (NBC News Political Analyst): It requires an army of troops out there across the country. And I don't think there's any evidence that Herman Cain has any of those yet.

O'DONNELL: From pizza executive to top tier candidate, for now Cain 's stock is on the rise. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Washington.