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“Just to be clear, I’m running for president of the United States of America, and I’m not running for second place.”

That was my announcement on May 21 in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. It was a high-noon event with more than 15,000 of my closest friends in attendance!

I wanted to be very clear of my intentions because of the usual three reservations expressed by skeptics about a “dark horse” candidate winning the Republican nomination for the presidency. Lack of name recognition, money and experience as a previous office holder are the usual negatives political pundits reference in their skepticism.

My name may not be a household name, but it is a grass-roots recognized name. Just consider the number of straw polls in which I have placed first in the last few months. The Tea Party Patriots summit in Phoenix, the Conservatives Values Conference hosted by Rep. Steve King in Des Moines, Iowa, multiple state Republican Party conventions and, most recently, an online Fox News survey following my official announcement of candidacy on Saturday.

Now my performance in the recent South Carolina presidential debate was not a straw poll, but by most accounts I was viewed the most favorable by a majority of those who saw that exchange among potential candidates, as well as the immediate reaction of a Frank Luntz on-air focus group.

Even a recent Zogby poll shows me in first place of the declared or soon-to-be declared candidates for the Republican nomination for president. And, ever since the Gallup organization started including me in its “positive intensity” poll, I have placed in the top three – and most recently tied for first – among all of the potential candidates.

Most importantly, people who know me and my professional history know that running for second place is not my style. There’s no such thing as second place when you are trying to save a company like Godfather’s Pizza from bankruptcy, and we did!

When I was assigned the responsibility for the most troubled region in the Burger King Corporation back in 1982, we did not strive to become the second most successful region in the company. Our goal was to become the most successful region in the company, and we did.

When the board of directors of the National Restaurant Association asked me to become the president and CEO in 1996, my mission was not defined as becoming a second-class association in Washington, D.C. Our task under my leadership was to become a first-class professional association of influence, which today represents more than 13 million workers.

Just as money cannot buy happiness, money alone cannot buy the Republican nomination, or even a second term as President Obama hopes to do by raising $1 billion in campaign cash. Although we need enough money to be competitive, money alone will not supersede the voices of an energized and informed electorate. That’s what is propelling my campaign into the limelight.

No, I have never held public office before, and I may not know how Washington works, as some have pointed out. But I do not want to learn how to create a $14 trillion national debt, or waste $1 trillion to create a stalled economy and a nine percent unemployment rate or continue to push problems off on future generations.

Our collective vision for America is to change those results for the better with a direct boost to the economy using bold tax reductions, responsible regulatory reductions, a restructuring of social programs and common-sense solutions to our national problems.

As president, my job will be to change Washington, not learn Washington.

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