Herman Cain, the pizza chain executive who rose to prominence in Republican politics with a catchy plan for tax reform before being felled by a sex scandal, has died after being hospitalized this month with the coronavirus. He was 74.

His death was announced on his website, which said there had been “hopeful indicators” for Cain in his Covid-19 battle as recently as five days ago.

Cain released a statement via Twitter on July 2 that he had been hospitalized in the Atlanta area after contracting coronavirus, less than two weeks after attending President Donald Trump’s indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He didn’t know when or how he contracted the disease, the statement said. Covid-19 cases were rising in the area at the time, prompting local officials to ask Trump to cancel the event.

“Trump Tulsa Rally—I was there! The atmosphere was exciting and inspiring!” Cain wrote on Twitter after the June 20 gathering. He also tweeted a photograph of himself there, not wearing a mask, in a group of other Trump fans who were also maskless.

“Herman Cain embodied the American Dream and represented the very best of the American spirit,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Twitter.

Cain spun his success in the pizza business and as a lobbyist, along with his charismatic personality, into a long-shot run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He was briefly the front-runner -- before any votes were cast -- on the strength of his 9-9-9 tax plan.

“There are generally three kinds of people in the world. People who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people who say, what in the heck happened,” Cain wrote in “This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House.”

Cain was working for Pillsbury’s restaurant and foods group in Minneapolis in the early 1980s when he was assigned to manage hundreds of Burger King sites in the Philadelphia area. The success of that venture led Pillsbury in 1986 to appoint Cain as president and chief executive officer of another division, the under-performing Godfather’s Pizza.

Cain swiftly returned Godfather’s to profitability and then helped engineer a leveraged buyout of the chain in 1988. He stayed with the company until 1996, when he moved to Washington as CEO of the National Restaurant Association, a lobbying and trade group. The stint with the NRA gave Cain valuable contacts in and around the political scene.

While his 2012 White House run captured national headlines, Cain also briefly ran for the 2000 Republican nomination, and for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia in 2004.

As a Black man he was a rarity in the highest levels of the Republican Party, and his positions sometimes put him at odds with Democratic President Barack Obama.

“People who oppose Obama are said to be racists -- so I guess I’m a racist,” Cain once said.

The 9-9-9 plan that propelled Cain to the top tier of 2012 candidates would have replaced the prevailing, endlessly complicated tax code with a 9% business transactions tax, a 9% personal income tax and a 9% federal sales tax.

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