HERMAN CAIN (AP Photo/Joe Burbank)


by Paul Steinhauser and Kevin Liptak

(CNN) — Herman Cain, the former pizza executive who briefly led the pack of GOP 2012 presidential hopefuls, convened a gathering of Republicans Monday with the goal of devising a strategy to convince fellow African-Americans to join the party.

Dr. Ben Carson, the Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon enjoying new popularity in the conservative movement, will also be present for the meeting, held at the Willard Hotel in downtown Washington.

“Individually, we are fighting the establishment media, establishment politics, and the narrow-minded perceptions and deceptions that are making us weaker as a nation,” Cain said in a statement. “Collectively we can amplify our efforts to help shape a stronger course for the nation and ‘main street’ America.”

The meeting will provide the group of conservative African-Americans a chance to get acquainted, but will also focus on “how to collectively expose the damaging effects of the current administration on the black community,” according to a Cain spokesman.

Exit polls from November’s presidential election showed 93% of African-Americans cast ballots for President Barack Obama.

Other attendees at Monday’s meeting include: Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state; Alveda King, the anti-abortion activist and niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce; Armstrong Williams, a radio and TV commentator; Niger Innis, a spokesperson for the Congress of Racial Equality; A.R. Bernard, the founder of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn; Star Parker, a writer and conservative activist; and Walter Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Herman Cain, a former executive at Godfathers Pizza, was at one point the frontrunner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. His campaign was derailed, however, after women alleged he sexually harassed them during his tenure as president of the National Restaurant Association. Cain adamantly denied those claims.

Carson, a much-lauded neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, burst into the conservative spotlight earlier this year after criticizing President Barack Obama during a prayer breakfast. In the weeks since, he’s stated that he’ll retire from medical practice later this year, and hasn’t ruled out a political career.

But his rise hit some turbulence when, in an interview on Fox News, he equated homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality. He withdrew as a speaker at Hopkins’ medical school commencement after outcry from students.



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