He delighted the audience more than once saying that "this many white people can't pretend that they like me," and later singing a gospel song: "He Looked Beyond My Faults (and saw my need)."
Cain is a 1967 graduate of Morehouse College with a bachelor's in mathematics and masters in computer science from Purdue University in 1971. He is the former chief executive officer of Godfather's Pizza based in Omaha, Neb., and his only stint in public service has been as deputy chairman and then chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Cain is in a statistical tie with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Iowa, which will hold their caucuses on Jan. 3, 2012. The poll, conducted by the Des Moines Register, has Cain at 23 percent with Romney at 22.
The Republican Party has never put a black person on its national presidential ticket. In 1888, at the Republican Party convention, Frederick Douglass became the first African-American to receive a vote for president.
In 1996, Gen. Colin Powell was considered a serious possible candidate for the 1996 Republican nomination for president, but decided not to pursue it. Alan Keyes, an African-American diplomat and conservative activist, has run for the 1996, 2000 and 2008 Republican nominations, drawing minimal support.
Cain addressed recent accusations of sexual harassment while serving as head of the National Restaurant Association by denying the charges, saying that "I have never sexually harassed anyone and I am not aware of a settlement."
He said that as president, he will "stand firmly behind Israel" and "stop giving money to our enemies."
Cain made it clear that he is "pro-life" and that he backs legislation on the federal level to outlaw abortion. He explained his 9-9-9 tax plan, which would assess a nine percent rate on business taxes, nine percent on personal income and a nine percent sales tax, as "simple, transparent, efficient and fair."
Cain said that he decided to run for president when President Obama signed into law comprehensive health care reform.
"We don't have a health care problem, it is a health costs problem," he said. "His [Obama] policies show a lack of leadership."
Cain said that he will use the leadership he had at Godfather's Pizza to turn the country around.
"When I became the CEO of Godfather's, I did not know how to make pizza," he said. Cain said that he talked with customers, staff, suppliers, and franchisers to get their perspective on what needed to be done to turn Godfather's around and "I will do the same as president."
While Cain has impressive numbers early in the presidential contest, David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Northwest, said that it might not even matter.
"It is 100-to-1 odds that he will get the Republican nomination," Bositis said. "He has never been elected to public office. He has a crackpot economic scheme."
Bositis said that Cain "is a black face that will make conservatives feel comfortable."
"I don't even see him as a vice presidential pick because he brings nothing to the ticket," Bositis said.
Nevertheless, Crystal Wright, a black Republican in the District, likes what she sees in Cain.
"He is talking as a businessman and with common sense," she said. "His 9-9-9 plan is easy to understand and it is simpler than Romney's 59-page economic development plan. Herman Cain is shattering perceptions about black conservatives among White conservatives and Blacks in general and I think a Romney-Cain ticket in 2012 is doable."