2011—The Republican Party of Florida's Presidency 5 convention and
straw poll was one of the big events of the
pre-primary period. Almost 3,500 delegates from around Florida
gathered at Orange County Convention Center in Orlando
for Presidency 5 (P5), which included the FOX News/Google debate on
night. A Faith and Freedom Coalition kick off event and the
first ever regional CPAC conference, held in conjunction with P5,
added up to a busy week for Florida Republicans.
Unlike the Ames Straw Poll, where campaigns bought blocks of tickets
bused in supporters, Presidency 5 delegates formed a more
representative sample of Republican Party activists (+). RPOF spokesman
Brian Hughes stated, "These are the core
Republican activist base in the state of Florida—the grassroots,
donors, elected officials at all levels."
Seeking to connect with these activists, groups ranging from the
Florida Federation of Republican Women to the East Side Tea Party set
up booths as did quite a few Florida campaigns, for this was a good
opportunity gather signatures for ballot access.
Six candidates actively participated in Presidency 5: Herman Cain,
former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul,
Rep. Rick Perry, and former Sen. Rick Santorum. Their campaigns
devoted varying amounts of resources to
P5 and the
The Perry campaign clearly put the most effort into P5,
printing up a couple of special literature pieces and putting on a big
breakfast for delegates. Perry staff were very visible in the
main lobby areas, ever ready to put lapel stickers on people passing
by. Mitt Romney, by contrast,
spoke at the FFC and CPAC events, but adhered to his policy of not
participating in any straw polls.
The Cain, Romney and Paul campaigns had tables for either CPAC or
Heading into Presidency 5 many attendees were very receptive to Perry's
candidacy. However, Perry's performance in the FOX
News/Google debate, particularly his response on in-state tuition for
children of illegal immigrants, hurt him.
Two receptions tell the tale of the surprising outcome. Herman
Cain drew a huge crowd to his reception at the Rosen Centre hotel on
night. A long line of people stretched down the corridor, forcing
campaign move the event to a
bigger room. People waiting in line broke into occasional singing
chanting. Finally the doors opened and people thronged in.
Hotel staff brought in a platform to raise the podium so that
Cain could be seen. State Rep. Scott Plakon announced his
endorsement of Cain and then the candidate himself spoke. The
atmosphere in the room was electric (and warm).
Early the next morning Gov. Rick Perry held a breakfast for delegates
in the Grand Ballroom at the Rosen Centre. Attendees served
themselves bacon, eggs, an
assortment of cakes, coffee and juice then headed into the room to
their meal and hear Perry speak. Perry P5 literature was
set out on the tables and signs were on the chairs. People
crowded around Perry to get their photo taken as he worked the
room. However, after his speech there was a bit of desultory
chanting, but not much excitement.
Romney appeared to have significantly more
support than the results showed. There was a rumor that the
Romney team encouraged supporters to vote for Cain, but there is no
evidence that that happened. What
is true is that some delegates were not happy that Romney did not
them at P5 or even have a surrogate speak, and as a result a number of
supported other candidates.
Many speakers at the P5 events noted the importance of Florida in the
general election, still more than thirteen months off. RNC
co-chair Sharon Day, for example, stated "If we don't win Florida, we
don't win the Presidency in 2012." A number
of speakers and attendees also pitched home state Sen. Marco Rubio as
an ideal running mate.
When the votes were tallied Cain achieved a dominating
remarkable personal story and successful business career, strong
speaking ability honed in his years as a radio talk show host, upbeat,
one might say Reaganesque personality, and support from Tea Party
activists whose cause he
has championed from the movement's early days led to the surprising
result. 2,657 delegates cast votes (+):
course, it is important not to read too much into straw polls.
Michele Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll, yet her campaign has
almost disappeared since. The results did show that "frontrunner"
Perry could face a very tough road ahead, and they provide a boost for
Herman Cain. The question now is whether he will be able to build
on his P5 triumph.
- Herman Cain, 37.1%
- Rick Perry, 15.4%
- Mitt Romney, 14.0%
- Rick Santorum, 10.9%
- Ron Paul, 10.4%
- Newt Gingrich, 8.4%
- Jon Huntsman, 2.3%
- Michele Bachmann,