Herman Cain Takes The Prize at Florida Straw Poll While Perry Places Second

Sep 24, 2011 6:23pm
ap Florida 2012 herman cain jt 110924 wblog Herman Cain Takes The Prize at Florida Straw Poll While Perry Places Second

(Joe Burbank/AP Photo)

Herman Cain pulled off an upset win over Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Presidency 5 Straw Poll in Orlando, Fla., today gaining 37 percent of the 2,657 votes after wooing Florida Republican delegates with a series of strong speeches at CPAC and P5.

“Thank you to the Republican voters for this incredible honor of being named the winner of the Presidency 5 straw poll in Florida today,” Cain said in a statement. “This is a sign of our growing momentum and my candidacy that cannot be ignored. I will continue to share my message of ‘common sense solutions’ across this country and look forward to spending more time in Florida, a critical state for both the nomination and the general election.”

Perry, who stumbled through parts of Thursday’s debate, placed second, beating Mitt Romney by one and a half percent.  They were followed by Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Michele Bachmann.

Cain’s Common Sense Solutions campaign was able to strike a chord with Florida Republicans, promoting his 9-9-9 economic recovery plan. The plan calls for a 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent individual flat tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax that he says will create $430 billion in revenue and 6 million jobs.

Perry issued a statement that was less an acknowledgment of Cain’s victory that it was a swipe at Romney.

“I want to congratulate Herman Cain on his victory today,” Perry said in a statement. “Floridians and voters nationally want a candidate who is clear on the issues and talks honestly about the future, not someone who takes multiple sides of an issue and changes views every election season.  Today’s vote demonstrates that Floridians are energized and ready to help get America working again.”

The two campaigns were quick to overlook Cain’s first place finish and turn the results into an opportunity to go on the attack.

Senior Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom took to Twitter shortly after the Straw Poll results were announced and jabbed at Perry for his distant second-place finish, despite pressing all week for a win.

“Words that Rick Perry probably wants to take back, from this morning’s breakfast: ‘I have all my hopes on Florida,’” Fehrnstrom wrote on Twitter.

In a follow up interview with ABC News, Perry spokesman Mark Miner called Romney’s third place finish “very devastating to his campaign.”

“He’s been running for president for five and a half years and he comes in third place today. Whether it’s his inconsistency or his liberal positions, the people of Florida continue to react to him every year he runs for president,” Miner said.  “He’s expecting to be crowned president without the effort and today showed he’s not just going to be crowned president of the United States. You have to work for it.”

The Perry campaign made a strong push for a win in the P5 Straw Poll, sending mailers to delegates the week before, beefing up a leadership team with high-profile Florida state legislators and courting delegates at a breakfast reception Saturday morning. Perry made personal appeals throughout the weekend to Floridians, saying it was a “mistake” for candidates to ignore the importance of the poll.

Some suggest Perry’s missteps in the debate and position on immigration may have hurt him among the party faithful in Florida.

William Breazeale, a delegate from Orlando, told ABC News he entered the weekend wanting to vote for Perry based on his jobs record but said Perry’s response to a question about in-state tuition for illegal immigrants at the debate would cost him a win at the Straw Poll.

“Rick Perry, as you’ll see, has lost a lot of conservatives in here by being pro-illegal immigration, and he can say he’s against it all he wants, but if you give benefits to any illegal aliens, you have lost the support of true conservatives,” Breazeale told ABC News.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told ABC News immigration is a hot issue for Florida voters but that the real focus of the 2012 election will be job creation.

“It’s all about jobs,” Scott said.  “That’s what people are worried about.”

Scott said his son, a delegate for the P5 straw poll, was contacted by Bachmann, Cain, Huntsman, and Perry.

The Romney campaign has downplayed their participation in the Straw Poll, saying they have spent little to no money on the event.

Earlier in the campaign, Romney said he would not participate in any of the states’ straw polls and would instead put his money toward primaries and caucuses.

Bachmann, who also did not heavily pursue delegates in the Straw Poll, placed last with 1.5 percent of the votes, a stark contrast from her first place win in the Ames Iowa Straw Poll in August.

The Republican Party of Florida’s Presidency Straw Polls have a history of selecting the Republican nominee and often times next president. Ronald Reagan won the first Presidency Straw Poll in 1979, and George H.W. Bush won Presidency 2 in 1987. Though he did not win the presidency, Bob Dole was chosen as the winner of Presidency 3 before he obtained the Republican nomination. Presidency 4 was held in 2008 but did not involve a straw poll.

Cain has done well in several straw polls this election season. At the Western Conservative Summit in Denver this July, Cain received nearly 50 percent after delivering a powerful speech, prompting many delegates to ask to switch their votes. Perry, who had yet to declare his candidacy but spoke at the conference in July, placed second.

ABC News’ Susan Archer, Emily Friedman and Amy Walter contributed to this report.

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