I had the privilege and honor to serve as one of the 2657 delegates to the Florida Presidency 5 debate and straw poll. Past winners of Florida’s Presidency Straw Polls have gone one to win either the presidency or at least the Republican presidential nomination. Previous Florida Presidency Straw Poll winners include: Ronald Regan, Presidency 1, 1979; George H.W. Bush, Presidency 2, 1987; and Bob Dole, Presidency 3, 1995. (Presidency 4 didn’t include a straw poll.) So I went into Presidency 5 with much anticipation and excitement about being a part of a process that may very well select the next president of the United States of America. Here is my eye witness report of what transpired including why Texas Governor Rick Perry lost and why delegates hopped on the Herman Cain Train.
Rick Perry came into Presidency 5 being the favorite. After speaking with St. Lucie County delegates, I would estimate that half came into the debate planning on voting for Perry, and many delegates for other counties planned to vote for Perry as well. Perry had the support of many in the tea party movement and the support of conservative leaders such as Florida Family Policy Council Director, John Stemberger. The straw poll was Perry’s to lose, and he did just that! When challenged on Texas’ law which allows the children of illegal aliens to pay instate tuition for college instead of the full rate, Perry responded “if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than that they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart… This is a state issue; Texans voted on it; and I still support it greatly.” With that statement, many of Perry’s supporters were looking for another candidates. (Watch the Fox News/Google YouTube debate video segments, 44:29 – 46:06 and 48:17 – 56:37, below to view the candidates immigration exchanges.)
I came into Presidency 5 with an open mind on three candidates that fit my criteria. I liked Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum based on the 100% pro-life stance they’ve taken. (I’ve since learned from Alveda King’s Blog that in the Palmetto Freedom Forum, Cain, Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich all supported applying Personhood status in the 14th Amendment to preborn children from conception. When the personhood of the preborn child is established, it will end abortion without exception! Ron Paul and Mitt Romney also attended that forum but opposed using the constitutional provisions in the 14th amendment to protect preborn children from abortion.) I then looked to place my support behind the candidate that had the best chances of the three candidates of winning.
It was soon evident that Cain was that candidate. Cain ignited the crowd every time he spoke. As the conference went on, his support grew to the point where Friday night he had to move a campaign rally to a room twice the size of the one he’d rented. Hotel staff worked to move the rally to room twice the size, and that room barely accommodated the crowd! While waiting for Cain to speak, the crowd sang patriotic songs and chanted “Yes We Cain” and 9, 9, 9 (in reference to Cain’s proposed tax plan).
The support for Cain continued to build Saturday as the straw poll vote drew near. The Cain campaign handed out boxes of shirts, signs, and t-shirts and could have given out hundreds more if they had them. I actively supported and campaigned for Cain, and much to my surprise, Republicans of all political leanings donned Cain shirts, signs, buttons, and stickers. When Cain had half of the delegates on their feet cheering with a full 25% of the delegates waving his sign during his pre-straw poll vote, I knew Cain would win.
Coming into the straw poll, I knew that if Cain finished in front of Bachmann, who was polling 1 point above him, it would be a major victory. However, when the votes were tallied, Florida Governor Rick Scott read the results, starting with Michele Bachmann in 8th place, followed by John Huntsman and Newt Gingrich. When Scott called off Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, I started to get excited! Then came Romney at number 3. Scott actually skipped Rick Perry at number 2 and went straight to Cain who at number 1 had more votes than his 2nd or 3rd place contestants (Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, respectively) combined! The hall erupted with cheers as Cains supporters stood to their feet, held his signs held, and shouted at the top of their lungs.
Cain has a long way to go to win the Republican nomination and the presidency. Certainly, a Presidency 5 win doesn’t guarantee Cain victory in either contest; however, his Presidency 5 Straw Poll victory should launch Cain into the top tier of candidates, and from there, Cain will have a platform to convince the nation that he is the candidate to replace President Obama.
Fox News Google Presidency 5 Presidential Debate YouTube Video