Cain's Convincing Fla. Straw Poll Win Refutes Press Meme That GOP Nomination Is a Two-Person Race

Herman Cain won the Florida straw poll tonight, winning the votes of 37% of those who participated. No other candidate came within 20 points of Cain.

As of 8:20 p.m., roughly two hours after the result was announced, the Associated Press's Philip Elliott and Kasie Hunt had a blatantly obvious contradiction in their 6:51 p.m. story ("Perry works to show he's strongest GOP contender"; saved here for future reference, fair use, and discussion purposes), as seen in this comparison of Paragraph 2 to Paragraphs 12-14 (bolds are mine throughout this post):


(Paragraph 2)

Perry lost a key test vote in Florida to businessman Herman Cain on Saturday after making a strong effort to win. Perry's second-place finish in the straw poll came just days after he faltered in a debate in Orlando, Fla.

(Paragraphs 12-14)

Cain captured 37.1 percent of the vote at Saturday's Presidency 5 straw poll in Orlando, with Perry coming in second with 15.4 percent. Mitt Romney came in third with14 percent and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania followed with 10.88 percent. (Complete standings are here -- Ed.)

While all declared candidates were on the ballot, the first-tier candidates did not compete. Perry bought hundreds of activists' breakfasts on the sidelines before heading to Michigan. Romney skipped and didn't send representatives to the forum. Romney and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota both left Florida before the voting began and their campaigns discounted the straw poll's role in the campaign. Bachmann finished eighth with 1.51 percent in the straw poll.

The results were unlikely to shuffle the campaign's standings. Instead, they were mostly a popularity contest among the delegates selected by local party organizations.

Geez guys, make up your minds:

  • Was it a "key test vote," as you said in Paragraph 2, or "mostly a popularity contest" that was "unlikely to shuffle the campaign's standings," as stated in Paragraph 14? Did the straw poll lose significance only because Cain won by huge margin?
  • Was Perry "making a strong effort to win" the straw poll, as stated in Paragraph 2, or was he a "first-tier candidate" who "didn't compete"? Or, as could be inferred, is Perry somehow not considered a first-tier candidate?!?

The current burial of the details of Cain's victory at the bottom of the AP story (Note: This was still the case at the AP's national site as of 9 p.m.) gives away the reporters' preconceived notion that the race for the GOP nomination is a two-person, Perry-Romney contest. Cain's victory, regardless of what one might think of his final prospects, demonstrates that it isn't. I daresay this does not please the AP and a large swath of the establishment press, which wants us to believe that only Perry and Romney matter.

A drop-dead obvious example of that predisposition, assisted by establishment Republicans, appeared at the AP this afternoon from headline to finish in a story by Ms. Hunt. Also note the gratuitous dig at Michele Bachmann:

Perry, Romney look beyond early-voting states

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are the only two Republican presidential candidates who can afford to spend their time and money in states that aren't first on the primary calendar.

That helps explain their appearances Saturday in Michigan, where GOP voters will have their say in 2012, but only after Iowa, New Hampshire and several other states that second-tier contenders must win to survive.

... "It's really about these two up here," said Jase Bolger, the speaker of Michigan's House of Representatives.

... While Romney and Perry played to the GOP faithful on this resort island in the Great Lakes, their rivals were scattered.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was in New Hampshire, where he's staked his candidacy. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was busy fundraising as she struggles to remain a relevant force in the race. Businessman Herman Cain, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania were in Florida, site of a straw poll.

Given how the press has been inclined to bury candidates who don't meet predetermined expectations in early primaries in past presidential election years, it's beyond weird that Ms. Hunt would choose to describe Perry's and Romney's Michigan visits as presumptive indicators of strength. Does she really believe, as would appear to be the case, that Romney can afford to lose New Hampshire, or that Perry can afford to do poorly in Iowa, without suffering serious damage to their candidacies?

Nice try, Phil and Kasie. No sale. Cain's triumph tonight demonstrates that the race is wide open, no matter how much you might wish that it were otherwise.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.