The first time I heard Herman Cain refer to himself as “the dark-horse candidate,” I knew that man had the kind of character and wisdom which smart people look for when picking a leader. Cain has risen so far above the superficiality of racialist, skin-color thinking that he makes those who pander to it or run from it look like a bunch of kindergarteners hurling spitballs.
Yes, until this weekend, Herman Cain was a dark-horse candidate, given very little chance of winning the nomination by everyone who is anyone.
Well, that was then and this is now. Not even Herman Cain can call himself a dark-horse candidate after Florida’s Presidency 5 vote, where Herman pulled in the winning 37% of Republican Party activists to Perry’s dismal 15% and Romney’s even worse 14%.
Oh sure, many prognosticators and pundits will be quick on the draw to downplay the significance of another “straw poll,” like the one Michele Bachmann won in Iowa only to see her popularity melt faster than a popsicle in a Texas desert on an August afternoon. But Florida’s Presidency 5 contest is a very different animal than Iowa’s straw poll and has far, far more significance.
For one thing, the Presidency 5 isn’t run like Iowa’s straw poll. In Florida, the state party leaders take their swing-state significance and their 29 large-share electoral votes very seriously. Not just anyone who shows up at Presidency 5 gets to vote in the election (and they call it an “election,” not a “straw poll”).
In Ames, Iowa, candidates buy lots of tickets, hand them out to their supporters, many who were bused in just for the event, and everyone there gets to vote. In Iowa, there is much giving of free food and music, a lot of wining and dining with beer and corndogs, and in this regard it’s much more like a caucus than an actual election. But in the Presidency 5 election, only GOP delegates to the Florida convention get to vote. Every person casting a vote in Florida’s poll has been active in party politics and earned their spot, which makes Florida’s pre-election poll much more significant than Iowa’s — not to mention Florida’s crucial 29 electoral votes to Iowa’s meager 6.
Can anyone win the presidency now without Florida? It’s pretty darned hard, especially since Republicans have to give up California from the get-go in the post-Reagan era. With the whole northeast still in the stranglehold of liberal delusions, the southern states — especially Texas and Florida — have become absolutely essential for any Republican candidate.
No matter how the pundits slice, dice, or try to puree Cain’s phenomenal victory this weekend in Florida, this shakes up the presidential race in much the same way that the Tea Party has been doing since the spring of 2009. Cain’s win might not signal an earthquake yet, but it helps him in some very significant ways.
For one thing, the Florida Republican Party delegates have sent a very loud message to the high-rolling insiders in D.C. The conservative party base has grown very weary of its step-child status among the GOP establishment and are signaling that they might not just go along to get along this time around.
Secondly, Cain’s biggest problem to date in getting real electoral momentum has been his near-bottom-of-the-candidate-barrel backing by inside-the-beltway types. Nate Silver, the rising star among political prognosticators, wrote two columns in May on why more political insiders ought to be taking Herman Cain seriously. Silver, as he explains somewhat, tends to use a more bottom-up paradigm when perusing polling data. While Silver knows that party establishment people figure prominently in pushing certain candidates over others, he also takes into account the bottom line lever-pulling power, which is always in the actual hands of the actual voters. And in Silver’s analysis, Herman Cain is proving to be an exceptional candidate with a lot more going for him in the minds of the voters than in the calculations of the party insiders and the MSM elites.