Rick Perry Takes His Chances on Florida Straw Poll

ORLANDO — Texas Governor Rick Perry delivered his plea for delegates’ votes in the Florida straw poll this morning, expressing his belief that other campaigns made a blunder by not campaigning for a straw poll win.

“There are number of folks and some campaigns who have spurned this tradition of the Florida straw poll,” Perry told an estimated crowd of 2,000 at a delegate breakfast hosted by his campaign. “I think that’s a big mistake. I think the Florida straw poll is very important.”

Perry shared with the delegates his personal experience from 2000, as the then lieutenant governor awaited the Florida results from the presidential election to determine his next step in Texas.

“There was a little notoriety out here about a thing called a hanging chad,” Perry said. “I just wanted to share with you what was about a month and a half – my hopes of being the governor of Texas were kind of in the balance during that same period of time and here we are eleven years later, and I’ve got my hopes on Florida again.”

“It’s great to be in the state that picks presidents. That’s what Florida does.”

Florida’s Presidency straw poll bears a strong history of picking the Republican nominee as delegates chose Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole in each of the years they won their party’s presidential nomination.

Perry has invested heavily in promoting himself for the Presidency 5 straw poll of 3,000 Republican candidates.

Other candidates, such as Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney, said they are not actively pushing to win the poll.

Perry’s campaign rolled out a bevy of endorsements in the week prior to the straw poll and assembled a strong leadership team for P5, which includes Florida state Speaker of the House Dean Cannon serving as the chairman and other Florida state legislators as part of the team.

In a mailer obtained by the Miami Herald which was sent to delegates this week, Anita Perry vouched for her husband’s humble upbringing and his ability to translate his economic record in Texas onto the national stage.

Earlier this week, a spokesman for Perry told ABC News said the campaign understands the importance Florida plays in the election.

“We always hope for the best outcome,” Mark Miner, spokesman for Perry, said of the straw poll.

Perry’s trouble at the debate on the issue of immigration sparked concern over the Texas governor’s ability to appeal to true social conservatives.

William Breazeale, a delegate from Orlando, said he respected the Texas governor’s military service and job creation record in Texas but decided to throw his support to Herman Cain because of Perry’s approval of providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrants in Texas.

“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. “I’d be very surprised if he wins the straw poll tomorrow because of that.”

Neil Curley, an undecided delegate from Naples, Fla., attended Perry’s breakfast to observe the Texas governor’s body language and demeanor in person after saying he “stumbled” during the debate.

“I think he needs to move on from nitpicking back and forth with another candidate doesn’t do any good,” Curley said. “Just go on with what he’s doing and present his ideas without going into the nitpicking because that detracts from the situation and especially for the Republicans we need a lot of independent voters to be successful and we don’t want to present that nitpicking thing as a discouraging factor.”

The Texas governor heads to Mackinac Island, Mich. for an afternoon speech at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.

Romney will deliver a speech to the conference later in the evening.

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