GOP strategists think Georgia is the key to expanding Republican control of the U.S. Senate next year. Incumbent conservative Democrat Sen. Zell Miller announced almost five months ago that he's retiring. That creates an open seat Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle desperately needs to keep. But President Bush is so popular there, and Republicans so dominate the state politically, that Daschle is having a terrible time recruiting. "I literally do not know a single Democrat by rumor, fact, or otherwise who is seriously thinking about running for the U.S. Senate in a state of 8 million people," says Georgia GOP executive director Alec Poitevint. But no fewer than four Republicans are seriously considering a run. Herman Cain is one of them. At 57, the staunchly pro-life, pro-business, African-American conservative has never run for office before. But backers say he's a formidable public speaker with attractive political credentials and a powerful American-dream-come-true story: His great-great-grandparents were slaves in the South; his great-grandparents were sharecroppers; his grandparents were farmers; his father was a chauffeur. Mr. Cain himself rose through the ranks of the Burger King Corporation and Pillsbury to become the CEO of the Godfather's Pizza chain and a member of the Federal Reserve. In 1994, as president of the National Restaurant Association, Mr. Cain fought against Hillary Clinton's nationalized health-care proposal, making the case in speeches and town meetings that the plan would harm small businesses and destroy jobs. In 1995, Mr. Cain served with Jack Kemp on a congressional commission to reform the federal tax code, a cause he reprised as co-chairman of Steve Forbes's presidential campaign in the 2000 Republican primaries. Among the other Republican hopefuls: six-term congressman Mac Collins, two-term Rep. Johnny Isakson (who replaced retiring House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 6th district), and Al Bartell, an African-American businessman from Atlanta who ran for lieutenant governor and lost. The White House believes whoever wins the GOP primary will win the seat. Mr. Poitevint, the Georgia Republican leader, is officially neutral in the primaries. But he calls Mr. Cain "a very capable, very credible, high-class guy" who will be a "serious player" if he enters the race.
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