ATLANTA Herman Cain, a radio talk show host and former CEO of a chain of pizza parlors, announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president on Saturday.
"We are going to take our country back," Cain, the former president and CEO of Godfather's Pizza, told thousands of supporters at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park.
The 65-year-old has never held political office. He made an unsuccessful bid for Senate from Georgia in 2004.
He joins a field of at least six Republicans who have entered or are seriously considering the race for their party's nomination to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in elections next year.
Though rated by most analysts as a longshot contender, Cain drew positive reviews for his performance at the first presidential debate in South Carolina earlier this month. His early involvement in the Tea Party movement could prove a strength.
At his announcement rally, Cain called for government spending cuts, lower taxes and energy independence, and for empowering states to help fight illegal immigration.
Under Obama, the U.S. economy has been stagnant and the number of people on food stamps has soared, Cain said.
"Hope and change ain't working," said Cain, who also criticized the president's new Middle East policy favoring a return to Israel's 1967 borders.
"You don't throw your friends under the bus," he said. "The Cain doctrine to the world would simply be, 'If you mess with Israel, you mess with the United States.'"
Cain worked as an executive at Coca-Cola, Pillsbury and Burger King before heading Godfather's Pizza. He also served as chairman, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.
More recently he has hosted his radio program, "The Herman Cain Show," broadcast out of Atlanta.
Joe Skender, a 60-year-old salesman from Roswell, Georgia, said he was impressed with Cain's speech and is not concerned that Cain has no experience as an elected official.
"He's smart, he knows the country. He's conservative. Little government, less spending, help businesses not hurt businesses," Skender said.
Added Skender's wife, Linda, "He doesn't owe anybody."
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)