Herman Cain Wins Florida Straw Poll, Should Not Be Underestimated

Businessman Herman Cain convincingly won Florida’s “Presidency 5” straw poll on Saturday, receiving 37% of the vote among thousands of Florida Republican activists, which was more than double what Texas Gov. Rick Perry (15%) received. Perry’s performance was disappointing because his campaign actively campaigned for and spent resources trying to win votes, unlike the Cain campaign, and a win could have blunted some of the negative stories about Perry’s poor debate performance and his position on issues concerning illegal immigrants (Perry said those who did not support the Texas DREAM Act were lacking “a heart.”). 

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney got 14% of the vote, proving once again that his best path to the nomination may as the default candidate instead of a candidate who galvanizes supporters to vote for him. Rick Santorum received 11%, continuing the momentum he has gained from stellar debate performances. Ron Paul finished with 10% and Newt Gingrich received 8%. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has surged into double digits in New Hampshire in the past week, did not fare so well, receiving 2% of the vote despite highlighting his family’s strong ties to Florida, particularly to Orlando and areas along Florida’s I-4 corridor. Michele Bachmann received 1.5% of the vote, and chatter about whether her campaign is now on life-support will surely begin. 

As Florida Gov. Rick Scott noted earlier in the week, the “Presidency 5” straw poll has had a perfect record of predicting the GOP presidential nominee in the past. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole won the straw poll. 

“I believe whoever wins this straw poll on Saturday will be the Republican nominee and I believe the Republican nominee will be the next President,” Scott told FOX News earlier in the week. 

After Cain’s win, his website temporarily crashed because it could not handle all of the traffic it was suddenly getting. Cain’s win was the top story on The Drudge Report and Google News. 

“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.”

While some may dismiss Cain’s win in the straw poll by pointing to how quickly Bachmann’s campaign face-planted after winning the much ballyhooed Ames Straw Poll, here are six reasons why doing so may be folly. 

1. Private sector experience

President Barack Obama has been criticized for his lack of experience in the private sector. Obama’s critics assert that Obama’s lack of private sector experience has put him in over his head and has caused him to mismanage the country’s economy. There is nobody in the current GOP field with more private sector experience or success in the private sector than Cain. Though Cain is known as having been the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, his record of turning around franchises, such as Godfather’s, that many thought would go into insolvency is a remarkable metaphor he can use to convince voters that he can apply what he did in the private sector to the country’s ailing economy and turn it around even though many pessimists similarly think America’s economy cannot be turned around.  

Cain says the best way for America to compete with countries such as China is to “out-grow” them. Democrats often want to parcel out pieces of the proverbial economic pie to their interest groups and constituents. Free market Republicans, on the other hand, want to expand the economic pie for everyone to get a greater share. GOP voters may think the “pizza man” may be the best person to expand the country’s economic pie so that more Americans can become prosperous. 

2. Red meat combined with a 9-9-9 plan. 

The GOP primary electorate is energized and fired up, and Cain, having been a former talk radio host, knows exactly what buttons and issues to push to galvanize audiences, especially Tea Party crowds, to whom he speaks. 

But Cain is not just talk.

He has a significant plan, which is cleverly dubbed the “9-9-9” plan, that will revamp the tax code with a 9 percent tax on income, a 9 percent national sales tax, and a 9 percent corporate income tax. 

The plan flattens and simplifies the tax code, but it is politically clever because Cain says that it is the first phase into eventually implementing the Fair Tax. This allows Cain to appeal to the fervent group of FairTax proponents in the GOP while also keeping remaining viable in a potential general election by promising to the replace the tax code immediately with the FairTax. 

3. Authenticity and Honesty 

Cain often refers to himself as an “American Black Conservative (ABC),” but he could just as well be an “Authentic Black Conservative.” 

One of the most memorable (and human) moments of this election cycle was how Cain responded to an embarrassing moment on FOX News Sunday when he did not know what host Chris Wallace meant by the Palestinians’ “right of return.” The next night on “Hannity,” Cain admitted that he simply was not familiar with the issue instead of attempting to try and spin his way of it like a typical politician would have done. Since that moment, Cain has shown a grasp of foreign policy issues, particularly as it relates to the Middle East and Israel.

One of Cain’s perceived weaknesses may be on foreign policy issues. But while Cain may not be the most bookish foreign policy expert, he has proven that he can learn quickly on the fly. In the end, voters may be more comfortable with someone who has the right instincts than someone who has book smarts but lacks those instincts, such as Obama. 

4. He shows up

Woody Allen famously said that “eighty percent of success is showing up,” and Cain has repeatedly shown up to obscure Tea Party rallies and straw polls far away from the limelight. 

5. Lack of political experience may be his greatest weakness and strength

Cain’s critics assert that he is not electable because he has never been elected to office. In response, Cain often talks about the politicians, whose approval ratings keep plummeting, that have gotten the country into the mess that it is in now. “How’s that working out for ya?,” Cain will often ask. In the election cycle’s first debate in South Carolina, that line was the most well received line of the night, according to a focus group done by FOX News. In this election cycle, a candidate’s lack of political experience may be a strength rather than a liability. What makes Cain different from someone like a Christine O’Donnell, though, is that Cain has had plenty of executive experience, which has been in the private sector instead of in government. 

6. Positive Intensity 

In nearly every weekly Gallup poll over a span of five months, Cain has consistently been at the head of the field when it comes to a candidate’s “positive intensity score.” In the most recent survey, Cain was tied for first in positive intensity, but only 50 percent of Republicans recognized him. The more people get to know Cain, the more they seem to intensely like him, so it will be interesting to see how much Cain’s poll numbers improve as his name recognition most likely goes up in the coming weeks.