ORLANDO – Georgia businessman Herman Cain scored an upset win in the Florida Republican Party’s straw poll Saturday, dealing a setback to national front-runner Rick Perry.
Cain received 37 percent of the 2,657 votes cast, more than twice as many as Perry, who made the most concerted effort here and captured 15 percent. He scraped by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who did not compete but finished with 14 percent.
“Folks, this is what you call momentum,” Cain, the former chief executive officer of Godfather’s Pizza and a tea party favorite, said in a video message to supporters. “The Herman Cain train is picking up steam.”
I admit, when I think of Herman Cain, I often think of certain things that steam…
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was fourth with 11 percent, followed by Ron Paul with 10 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 8 percent, and ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman with 2 percent. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who won a prominent straw poll victory in Iowa last month, finished with just under 2 percent.
Interviews with delegates suggested that Perry’s defeat hinged on his debate performance, in which he botched several answers and alienated social conservatives by calling “heartless” opponents of his moderate immigration policy.
Perry had departed for another GOP conference on Mackinac Island, Mich., by the time the vote results were announced, but his campaign had spent money on direct-mail advertising and he worked activists at a series of conferences for two days beforehand.
Cain, an electrifying speaker, has been campaigning on his “9-9-9″ plan, which would establish a flat personal income tax, corporate tax, and sales tax of 9 percent each. He has been languishing near the bottom of the pack in most polls, but he spent time wooing delegates, many of whom gushed about his charisma.
The result seemed certain to fuel speculation that New Jersey Gov. [Chris] Christie is reconsidering his stated decision not to run for president, as Republican fund-raisers and establishment leaders continue to press him to enter as an alternative to Romney. People close to Christie say he has not changed his mind.
From Dave Weigel at Slate:
ORLANDO, Fla. — Herman Cain won the Presidency 5 Florida Straw poll with 996 votes, 37.1 percent of the total, blowing past Rick Perry and Ron Paul, both of whom had organized to win here. He more than doubled the Perry vote; more delegates chose Cain than chose Perry and Romney, combined.
“It shows you something,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “The road to the White House is right through Florida. It pays to be here.”
Of course, Perry had shown up — he was here from Thursday night to Saturday morning, working over delegates personally. By failing so convincingly, Perry’s ensured that the weekend’s “trouble for frontrunner narrative” will be plated in gold and frozen in amber.
Why is Cain’s win so impressive? This wasn’t a vote a campaign could overwhelm with its own supporters. To win the Ames straw poll, you need to buy $35 tickets for as many Iowans as possible. Here, delegates were selected in counties, and had to pay $175 to attend the weekend’s events. The relatively poor showing by Paul is better than he could have pulled off in 2007 — he got less than 5 percent of the primary vote — but it gives us a more realistic picture of his grassroots backing. Meanwhile, in the Tea Party-flavored GOP, Cain is a rock star who generated deep affection. Multiple delegates told me they wanted to send the message that he should be second on the ticket.
in talking to the delegates all day, there was little variation from the panhandle to Miami-Dade, from the I-4 corridor to Pinellas. “I voted for Cain, but I wish Michele Bachmann had shown up,” said delegate Tom Andrews. “Perry is just too… the words I would use would be status quo.” Multiple delegates told me that had been undecided between Perry and Cain, especially after the debate, but decided to boost Cain because he could use the boost.
Herman Cain – 996 (37.1%)
Rick Perry – 409 (15.4%)
Mitt Romney – 372 (14.0%)
Rick Santorum – 289 (10.9%)
Ron Paul – 276 (10.4%)
Newt Gingrich – 224 (8.4%)
Jon Huntsman – 60 (2.3%)
Michele Bachmann – 40 (1.5%)