Florida P5 Straw Poll Poised to Change Political Landscape

Large Number of Undecided P5 Voters Could Produce Surprise Strength for Mitt Romney and Herman Cain

Bookmark and Share    Today the eyes of the American political world are focused on Florida where the state’s Republican Party is conducting its P5 Straw Poll (5th presidential straw poll).  In advance of it, Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott promised that the winner of Presidency 5 would be the winner of the state’s Republican presidential primary.  And many believe that the winner of Florida’s Republican presidential primary may ultimately become the Republican presidential nominee.  In recent years, no one has become the nominee without winning Florida and the state G.O.P. has become proud to claim that the road to the White House must go through Florida.
 
Going into the straw poll, Texas Governor Rick Perry was largely viewed as the likely winner of it.  But that prediction is now being downplayed after his poor debate performance on Thursday night.  An on the ground sense of P5 voters seems to indicate that a large number of participants in the poll were undecided and in the wake of the debate, many seem to be shifting Mitt Romney’s way and those who were leaning Perry’s way, are now reconsidering their support of him.
 
Despite these predicted trends, Perry should still be considered the frontrunner in the Florida straw poll but with a large field of candidates and a great deal of strength from back tier candidates like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, could easily hurt Perry and allow Romney or even someone else to take the top spot.
 
One significant factor will be the regional influence of Herman Cain.
 
For over twenty years, Florida conservatives, particularly evangelical conservatives have been afforded the opportunity to spend time with Cain every weekday through his long running Atlanta based radio talk show.  Another benefactor of Southern regional influence will be Newt Gingrich who became Speaker of the House while representing his Georgia congressional district.   Then there is also TEA movement favorite Michele Bachmann who also appeals to evangelical conservatives.
 
These strong blocs of support which have great enthusiasm for their favorites will make it not impossible, but harder for Perry to take the number one spot.  That is especially the case after he lost the confidence of many through his remark about those who disagreed with his view about offering in-state, discounted tuition incentives to illegal immigrants.  According to Perry, those who didn’t see it his way, had “no heart”.  Benefiting from their rebuttal to that comment, were former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and particularly Mitt Romney. Yesterday, the day after Perry’s offensive debate statement, in a speech to the CPAC Florida conference,  Romney noted “My friend Gov. Perry said if you don’t agree on his position to give in-state tuition to immigration, you don’t have a heart,”. He went on to say, “If you’re opposed to illegal immigration, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a heart. It means that you have a heart and a brain.”
 
In addition to the recent hit Perry is taking and that Mitt Romney is exploiting, another influencing factor in P5 is the fact that Romney already has a strong organization in Florida and has maintained a presence there since his strong showing in the state’s 2008 Republican presidential primary.  Still it is important to note that Romney skipped participating in the straw poll.  at the same time, Rick Perry has remained in the state since Thursday and even addressed a gathering of Florida Republican delegates at a P5 breakfast.
 
The largest unknown quantity in this straw poll will be Ron Paul.
 
Paul usually performs quite well in such relatively informal contests that are much easier to dominate by a loyal band of organized supporters who can dominate with an exaggerated showing of support that does not accurately reflect the broader sentiment of the general electorate.   But the P5 event will be a bit more difficult for Paul to control.
 
All things considered, I suspect that Perry will eek out a win, but Romney will probably have a stronger showing than expected.  But I wouldn’t set that in stone because Romney may very well surprise us all.  Then again, Herman Cain might actually be able t pull off a real game changing upset and have a stronger showing than Perry and Romney.
 
Throughout the day, the P5 event will be airing a live stream of the conference and the afternoon schedule is as follows:
 
1:30 PM  –  Governor Rick Scott
2:00 PM –  Ron Paul
2:20 PM –   Herman Cain
2:40 PM –  Rick Santorum
3:00 PM –  Jon Huntsman
3:20 PM –  Rick Perry
 
4:05 PM –  Straw Poll voting begins
 
5:45 PM –  Results to be announced
 ***All times Eastern Standard Time
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