Cain’s Florida Shocker

The value of the Florida straw poll was increased dramatically when Governor Rick Scott suggested that the winner of the Florida straw poll would also be the winner of the Presidency.  Scott’s prediction is not outlandish.  The Orlando event and debate was huge, in an area that represents the swing difference between the conservative north Florida and more liberal areas of the south.  The poll represents the party interests as many GOP and TEA party groups throughout the state made appearances.  And it would be almost impossible to imagine a 2012 candidate in the general election winning the Presidency without carrying Florida.

But who thought Herman Cain would win the Florida straw poll?

Rick Perry was the favorite going into the straw poll.  Perry also stayed behind and continued to work the crowd after the other candidates left.  Perry bought breakfasts and schmoozed.  He understood how crucial this poll was.  But in the end, Cain did twice as well as Perry in the straw poll.  While Romney continues to poll well in many northern states, Cain’s victory will at the very least cause undecided voters to take a second look.

While this may not change the scene too much for Herman Cain, it certainly is a tough blow to Rick Perry.  Perry struggled in the debate, blaming his performance on lack of sleep.  Perry also made a huge blunder by suggesting what amounted to a claim that if you don’t support instate tuition discounts for illegal aliens you don’t have a heart.  Even pro-amnesty Republicans will have a hard time swallowing that one.  So far the debate performances have not had much effect on the perceived standings of the candidates.  This time, Perry is feeling the painful fallout.

Interestingly, Ron Paul did not do well.  Typically his straw poll numbers are inflated, but not in Florida.  Bachmann did terrible and Huntsman barely registered.

Pawlenty’s Demise Focuses Crosshairs on Obama

Tim Pawlenty bowed out of the race  on Sunday morning.  He cited a poor showing in Iowa and no clear path forward.  In his exit statements, Pawlenty offered what had been missing from his campaign.  Pawlenty said:

“I’m doing this because I love this country and I want to defeat Barack Obama because I think he’s got it on the wrong course…but I don’t get my identity or my sense of worth or my values or my faith from politics. I get it from my personal faith in God, and I believe in this country, I love this country, I thought I would have been a great president.”

And with that he summed up what he should have been saying all along in this campaign.

Pawlenty's strategy of attacking frontrunners failed to rocket him to the front

Instead, Pawlenty became memorable for coining the term Obamneycare, attacking Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul for never accomplishing anything, while allowing himself to easily slip into the category of being a copy of another candidate.  Pawlenty was the governor who balanced the budget without increasing taxes beyond a cigarette tax.  But that didn’t separate him from nearly half the other candidates.  In fact, Pawlenty’s biggest differentiation was that he was the sole candidate outside of Ron Paul to go after his GOP rivals in a race that thus far has been mostly focused on Obama and liberal policies.

The loss of Pawlenty and inclusion of Rick Perry will help focus this race more on Obama as each candidate contrasts themselves with him instead of with each other.

Pawlenty was a good candidate with good credentials coming into this race.  However, after his performance in the last Iowa debate I was surprised that he did as well as he did in the Iowa caucus.  Pawlenty is making the right choice by stepping out of this race, and the tone of the race will be better without him.  The key to winning the 2012 GOP primary is becoming more clear.  Candidates need to contrast themselves with Obama and then win on ideas.  In this stage of the game, going after fellow GOP candidates is not yielding much fruit.

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