Herman Cain (R), the conservative Atlanta-based radio host and former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, announced Wednesday that he is officially forming a presidential exploratory committee.
The announcement makes Cain the first 2012 contender to launch an exploratory committee.
"After receiving overwhelming encouragement from supporters and donors across the U.S., I have decided to form a presidential exploratory committee," Cain said in statement. "During this time, we will examine the extent of financial resources and grassroots support that would be critical to winning the Republican nomination."
While he would undoubtedly enter the race as a significant longshot, Cain has generated considerable buzz among grassroots conservatives and Tea Party activists, having spoken at dozens of rallies nationwide. Cain, who is African-American, recently emerged as the surprise winner of a presidential primary bracket on the conservative blog RedState, edging former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) by 800 votes.
Further demonstrating that he should not be dismissed as a fringe candidate, Cain was one of 12 potential Republican presidential hopefuls invited to an upcoming forum in Des Moines, Iowa. The event, organized by Iowa's Faith and Freedom Coalition -- an influential social conservative group with ties to the Tea Party -- will likely be the first forum of the 2012 contest.
Cain has never held elected office. He briefly flirted with a presidential run in 2000. In 2004, he ran for the Senate in Georgia but lost the Republican primary to then-Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).