The Florida Straw Poll

Yesterday’s Florida straw poll gave Herman Cain an unusual victory. He had hardly been a blip on the radar for most of the early election season. Suddenly, he wins the CPAC poll with 37% of the vote, followed by Rick Perry at 15% and Mitt Romney at 14%.

From the ecstatic clamoring of the media and Cain supporters, you’d think he’d won the whole primary season. He hasn’t. He isn’t likely to.

Why did he win? It was a smackdown for Perry. The conservatives at the meeting did not like Perry’s response on giving illegal immigrants the in state costs for college. They didn’t like that Perry suggested they lacked heart for feeling that way. It was a dumb remark.

Cain was succinct in his debate performance and gave dubious Republicans a mini raft of a platform to cling to. However, the debate was not long enough, nor in depth enough to place your whole bet on Cain. Remember his blank look when Chris Wallace asked him about the Palestinian right of return? He had no idea what the Fox host was talking about. Really, that is something anyone dealing with world politics should know about.

Rather, the vote for him was a request for a deeply conservative candidate. Obviously, Mitt Romney failed to impress, even though he tried hard in the debate. Too hard, if you ask me. Patterico’s Pontifications blog has believed from the first that it’s a Romney vs. not Romney race. I concur, and the Florida straw poll vote bears that out.

Pundits say that Republican voters seem to choose the “next in line candidate.” Romney is that. He missed in 2008 and has had the years since to devote to his candidacy and prepare for debates. Still, he hasn’t connected. I’m not surprised at his win in Michigan’s straw poll. I don’t think this is contradictory. His dad, George Romney, was a popular Michigan governor. The family has deep roots there and could easily coordinate the votes to top the poll.

No, Cain’s win, I think was a warning to Perry. Get it together, get it conservative and get it right before we pick you. You can’t just waltz in and win. You’re going to have to earn it and we’re cranky.

In the last election cycle, McCain had not secured top billing. His candidacy waxed and waned and so will Perry’s. All he has to do is to reveal how deeply flawed a candidate Romney is. He can best Cain by pointing to his own state’s success under his leadership. Cain has no governance experience and was a member of the Federal Reserve – not exactly a plus right now.

Last week Rush Limbaugh pointed out, pre debate, that Texas is different in some of its attitudes than the rest of the nation. He warned others to respect Texans’ views on immigration and to not let that one minor issue disqualify a candidate and that Republicans cannot afford to lose that state. His words were prescient.

Patterico still believes (although he has not yet endorsed him) that Perry will be the likely GOP nominee. He believes Perry has a good record to point to, is more conservative than Romney and he is hard scrabble enough to know how to fight.

Perry has more occasions to prove himself – and he’s going to have to. The next debate is October 11 in New Hampshire and sponsored by Bloomberg and the Washington Post. Then it is followed by a CNN Las Vegas debate on October 18.

Time will show us what these candidates are made of.

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