Opinion: Herman Cain handily wins Florida GOP straw poll

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Herman Cain, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, followed a strong showing at this week’s GOP debate in Orlando by joining most of his fellow Republican presidential candidates in addressing the Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Conservative Political Action Conference, in the same Florida city.

One of those meaningless straw polls followed.

But, wait. This one was different. Cain won. He took nearly 40% of the 2,567 votes cast, far outpacing the purported front-runners, Govs. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. That’s a real PR setback for both losers and sets the stage for much media questioning of Perry about his stumbling campaign.


Romney had claimed he wasn’t trying to win the straw poll, even though aides worked the phones, e-mails and aisles for him.

But Perry made an all-out free-breakfast-come-talk-with-me effort. And he lost, rather big-time, to a man who is the favorite of many conservatives, although a longshot to become the GOP’s nominee.

Much of the GOP race attention has been focused on the Rock ‘Em-Sock ‘Em routine that’s....

...become predictable between Perry, who just started running in August, and Romney, who hasn’t stopped running since 2007. Perry took 15.4% of the straw poll votes and Romney garnered 14%.

The Perry/Romney dispute continued after the straw poll, when the Texan released a statement that congratulated Cain but also could be interpreted as taking a rhetorical poke at Romney, saying:

‘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.’


Pulling up the rear was Rep. Michele Bachmann, who put great effort into winning the Ames Straw Poll in her native Iowa. Topping the bottom half of the pack was Rep. Ron Paul, who came in a close second in Iowa and easily won the recent California GOP straw poll in Los Angeles. He only managed to score 10.4% in Florida.

Here’s the final lineup:

1. Herman Cain, 37.1% 2. Rick Perry, 15.4% 3. Mitt Romney, 14% 4. Rick Santorum, 10.9% 5. Ron Paul, 10.4% 6. Newt Gingrich, 8.4% 7. Jon Huntsman, 2.3% 8. Michele Bachmann, 1.5%

Cain also gave a rousing speech to the CPAC attendees -- click here for a post that includes an audio recording -- in which he addressed the issue of whether a man who’s never held political office can have a realistic chance of winning his party’s nomination or the presidency.

As quoted in the post, here’s what he said:

“Let’s alter another conception. Just because somebody has never held high public office, some people are spreading the nasty rumor that Herman Cain can’t win. Well, let me tell you what, that might be what they think, but the American people have a different idea.”

“So,’ he continued, ‘when you cast your ballot at this straw poll, send Washington a message: they’re ready for a problem solver, not another politician. They’re ready for solutions, not more speeches.”

Cain’s victory in the straw poll could be attributed to his speech or to his debate performance or to his 9-9-9 economic plan or to his compelling personal story.


The son of working-class parents, Cain grew up in Atlanta, Ga., and went on to attend Morehouse College and Purdue University.

After working as a mathematician for the Department of the Navy, Cain pursued a career in business that included executive leadership positions at Pillsbury Company, Godfather’s Pizza and the National Restaurant Association.

He’s also a survivor of stage-four colon and liver cancer, which he discussed at the debate.

This isn’t his first brush with the presidency. He also debated Bill Clinton about his healthcare plan in 1994 during a townhall meeting. Here’s the video:

Comedian and actress Janeane Garofalo has another explanation for Cain’s candidacy, as outlined in an appearance in August on Current TV’s ‘Countdown With Keith Olbermann.’

Among her comments: ‘But, Herman Cain, I feel like, is being paid by somebody to be involved and to run for president so that you go like ‘I love that, that can’t be racist. He’s a black guy, a black guy asking for Obama being impeached.’ Or ‘it’s a black guy whose anti-Muslim. It’s a black guy who is a Tea Party guy.’’


She also had some thoughts on who might be behind him: ‘And I feel like wouldn’t that suit the purposes of whomever astroturfs these things. Whether that be the Koch brothers or Grover Norquist or any anything. It could even be Karl Rove. ‘Let’s get Herman Cain involved so it deflects the obvious racism of our Republican party.’’

Click here for the ‘Countdown’ video and additional comments from Garafalo and Olbermann.

Below find Cain’s response, from an appearance on Fox News’ ‘Hannity’:


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-- Kate O’Hare

Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment news site Zap2it. Also follow O’Hare on Twitter @KateOH.

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Photos/videos: Herman Cain at the Fox News/Google GOP Debate in Orlando: Cain address CPAC in Orlando; Cain debates Bill Clinton at a townhall meeting; Cain on Fox News’ ‘Hannity.’ Credits: Fox News (screenshot of Cain at debate); Mark Wilson / Getty Images (Cain at CPAC); YouTube:TheHermanCain (townhall debate); Mediaite/FoxNews (‘Hannity’ clip).