Some public figures fade into obscurity when they're pushed off the national stage by a scandal. Not Herman Cain.
The former pizza CEO and Republican presidential candidate took a three-day vacation in Florida last December, after allegations of sexual improprieties by several women forced him out of the race—and spent most of the time plotting how to keep his 9-9-9 tax reform plan alive. The result will be a new book, tentatively titled 9-9-9 The Revolution.
For those who didn't commit his plan to memory, Cain's idea was to scrap the existing tax code and institute a new scheme with a 9 percent tax on personal and corporate income, plus a 9 percent national sales tax. While catchy, critics argued that 9-9-9 lacked rigorous analysis and would probably leave the government significantly short of funds. Conservative complained about the national sales tax, a dreaded concept that they fear would lead to a gusher of new money that would only make government bigger.
The book is meant to flesh out 9-9-9 and turn it from a slogan into an executable plan. Cain hasn't completed the manuscript yet, according to people working with him, but hopes to have it on sale in bookstores by some time in April. Cain isn't using a traditional publisher. Instead, he has signed on to work with a New York lawyer and literary agent named Stan Pottinger, who held senior positions in the Nixon and Ford Administrations as a civil rights attorney. Pottinger plans to produce 9-9-9 The Revolution independently, with proceeds going to a nonprofit foundation Cain has started.
Judging by Cain's prior book sales, 9-9-9 The Revolution could be a modest success. Research firm Nielsen Bookscan, which captures about 75 percent of all book sales, recorded sales of about 33,000 in 2011 for This Is Herman Cain, the candidate's memoir. That's far short of the stratospheric sales figures reached by people like Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, but still very respectable for somebody who was practically unknown a year ago.
Cain, in fact, is pursuing series of initiatives meant to turn 9-9-9 into a movement—and get legislation introduced in Congress. In addition to his Cain Foundation, there's another nonprofit group, The Cain Solutions, that will organize educational events in Washington. He's been on a bus tour of college campuses to drum up support for 9-9-9, including one rally in South Carolina where he played sidekick to comedian and faux candidate Stephen Colbert.
Like anybody who's anybody in politics, Cain has also formed a SuperPAC, Cain Connections, which will raise funds to promote 9-9-9 throughout the elections and support like-minded candidates. Cain has already endorsed Newt Gingrich—who has proposed a different tax plan that might be dubbed 15-12.5-0, since it would entail a 15 percent flat rate on income, a 12.5 percent corporate tax and no national sales tax. Cain also backs other Republican candidates such as Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, who's running for the House in Ohio, former restaurateur Craig Miller, who's running for the House in Florida, and Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, who's angling for the Senate this year.
Cain could also benefit personally from the added exposure. He recently became a client of Washington Speakers Bureau, which books some of the priciest talent on the speaking circuit. In the past, Cain has commanded about $25,000 per speech, according to insiders, though his appeal may have slipped in the aftermath of the sexual harassment allegations.
Cain spokesman Mark Block says the former candidate hasn't done any paid speaking gigs since dropping out of the race, though he may in the future. Cain has also said he's not interested in the kind of TV network jobs that Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and others have signed on to.
"He would rather be flexible," says Block. "Network contracts typically tie you up in terms of what you can and can't do."
For now, Cain gets paid to produce a daily "news nuggets" feature for an Atlanta radio station, with a deal in the works for national syndication. If it catches on, Cain could become the next Paul Harvey—and 9-9-9 might blanket the airwaves all over again.
Rick Newman is the author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback to Success, to be published in May. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman