Herman Cain surprise winner in FL straw poll
Herman Cain shocked the GOP world on Saturday by winning the Florida straw poll, garnering 37% of the vote.
Rick Perry, whose debate performances have come under fire in the last 72 hours finished a distant second with 15%. Mitt Romney got 14% for third place.
Perry's campaign needs some good news to right itself. These Floridians, at least, believe that Perry needs to work on his messaging and his debate skills:
Pinellas County delegate Rachelle Warmouth said that, if Perry lost, it wouldn't be the end of his campaign. But win or lose, the debate performance and the effect it's having on party loyalists are a call to step up his game.
"He'll have to have a strong recovery," she said. "He needs to focus on his message."
Warmouth's friend, Eileen Blackmer, agreed: "He needs to work on the three C's: Be clear, be concise, be complete."
Lee County delegate Dane Eagle said he's for Romney. He likes the candidate's message and polish on stage. And he fears that President Barack Obama would walk all over Perry in debates.
"That's what Obama does," Eagle said. "He debates."
St. Johns County delegate Randy Covington said he arrived in Orlando ready to vote for Perry, but the debate "shattered" that plan. Covington decided to support Cain after the businessman's rousing speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. That event was wedged in between the party's Presidency 5 Thursday debate and Saturday straw poll.
But Covington said he wasn't sure if Cain would or should be the nominee. He said the primary shouldn't be a two-man race.
Is Cain now the "Anybody but Romney" candidate? There were apparently a lot of Perry voters who switched to Cain on the fly. But do they think the Georgia businessman can win?
Conservatives are casting about for an alternative to Romney. Perry hasn't lost them yet but they are going to have to see a lot more from the Texas governor in the near future - some sign he has the ability to articulate his views and hold his own in the debates. His campaign has lost - if it ever had it - its sense of inevitability and destiny. He will now have to fight like hell to regain the momentum he has lost thanks to his below average debate performances.
As for Cain, this can only help his cause dramatically. This victory may catapult him into the second tier of candidates with the subsequent increase in media exposure, fundraising, and credibility. People are going to start paying closer attention to Cain, which is a mixed blessing if you consider the first burst of interest in his candidacy. His views on Muslims in his cabinet followed by a curious apology raised questions about his judgment in many people's minds.
The quotable Mr. Cain has a real opportunity to impress. How he handles it will reveal whether he is a serious candidate or just another shooting star, flaming out under the pressure of a national campaign.