The Florida straw poll didn’t exactly come out the way Rick Perry planned it.
ORLANDO — From the bottom of the polls to the top of the pack, businessman Herman Cain won a surprise victory at the Republican Party of Florida’s nationally watched presidential straw poll Saturday in a sign that frontrunner Rick Perry is in deep trouble.
Cain’s landslide victory, with 37 percent of the vote, exceeded the combined total for Perry and Mitt Romney, who only garnered 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
But it was a particularly stinging defeat for Perry, the frontrunner in Florida and national polls. He had wooed the nearly 3,000 party faithful with fliers before the weekend and a free breakfast Saturday.
“Folks, this is what you call momentum,” Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, said in a video message from his campaign bus. “The Herman Cain train is picking up steam.”
The vote also showed how soft Republican support is for Mitt Romney, who came in third with 14 percent. Unlike Perry, though, he avoided schmoozing the voters.
Ana Navarro, of Miami-Dade and an advisor to Jon Huntsman, said Perry is more show than substance.
“Rick Perry is a Texas stud, a real macho-man who looks great in cowboy hat and boots and was supposed to come galloping on his stallion to rescue Republicans and lead us to the promise land,” said Navarro, an advisor to Huntsman’s campaign. “But it’s become increasingly clear he can’t perform. He has electile dysfunction.”
On the other hand, as Scott Simon tweeted, Mr. Cain must be feeling a little left out: “African American man wins FL Republican straw poll & lead is still ‘Perry Loses.’ What more does Herman Cain have to do?”
I think this is a sign of more than just Rick Perry’s meteoric rise and fall. The Republicans are still in the try-out phase, and it’s clear that they haven’t settled on either a candidate or a message other than “Get That _______ Out of Our White House.” But they keep trotting out these new candidates with the flurry of an audition for “American Idol,” except this particular show could be “The GOP’s Biggest Loser.”
There have been so many Republican flavors of the month that it’s hard to keep track of who’s hot and who’s not: Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry have all had their moments in the sun… and melted like snowflakes. That’s enough to give hope to the early drop-outs like Tim Pawlenty and Thaddeus McCotter. There are enough of the No, Thanks crowd — remember Mike Pence, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, and Mitch Daniels? — that they could start their own primary. They’re even going back to try to get Chris Christie to consider a run despite his Shermanesque attempts stay out of the race.
And through it all Mitt Romney cruises along, nary a hair out of place, winning the Michigan straw poll on Sunday and Mr. Perry barely showing up. Mr. Romney’s advantage is that his father, Gov. George Romney, was a popular figure in Michigan fifty years ago. Since the average age of the Michigan GOP pegs out the actuarial tables, my guess is that most of the votes he got were because they thought they were voting for his dad.
In spite of that, were I a betting man, I’d say that Mitt will end up getting the nomination, even if it’s barely worth having. To quote a wise gambler, when the money is split between the favorites, bet on the long shot.
HT to CLW.