The winner of the Florida primary is ... Herman Cain.
Before the votes are counted, or even cast, Cain appears to have scored a win Friday when a panel of political appointees selected Jan. 31 as Florida’s primary date.
The decision will make Florida the first state in the union outside of the four smaller states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, that traditionally hold early primaries or caucuses to vote for a party’s nominee for president.
Cain, the winner of the P5 straw poll of Florida Republicans in Orlando last month is still riding the crest of notoriety that result brought him. His name is mentioned more and more alongside contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and less and less with the pack of also-rans like Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman. He has appearances lined up this week on the Sean Hannity TV show and The View with a meeting with Donald Trump squeezed in.
The earlier Cain can get back to Florida for the real deal, the better. An early primary in Florida on one hand shortens the length of time he needs to sustain a campaign before a big prize can be had and on the other, hastens the fundraising jolt he’ll experience with a strong showing here. As opposed to 2008, when the winner of the Florida primary got all of the state’s delegates, this time delegates will be assigned in proportion to the percentage of votes garnered.
Once the Jan. 31 primary date was picked, CNN announced it will team with the Republican Party for another debate among the candidates, this one to be held in the last week of January in Jacksonville.
A week before his P5 victory, Cain acquitted himself well in a CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Tampa.
In short, Florida seems to like Herman Cain and Herman Cain seems to like Florida.
Straw polls aren’t necessarily good indicators of success in a statewide primary, but for what it’s worth Cain keeps doing well in them.
Over the weekend he was the runaway winner in a straw poll conducted at a convention of the National Federation of Republican Women in Kansas City.
Cain got 49 percent of the roughly 500 votes cast. Perry, in distant second, got 14 percent and Romney 13 percent. Cain, Santorum and Newt Gingrich were the only candidates to speak at the convention. Gingrich got 12 percent of the vote, Santorum, 7 percent.
The one thing straw polls do show is commitment from the most politically active voters. They’re the sort of people likely to donate money and volunteer for campaigns. Sweeping straw polls as Cain has been doing suggests the potential for an energized base of workers should his candidacy remain viable.
Some other interesting findings from the Federation of Republican Women straw poll:
* Eighty-one percent said they are satisfied with the field of candidates for the nomination.
* Most of the participants didn’t respond to a question asking about additional candidates joining the race. Of those who did, the largest percentage, 43 percent, said the entry of Chris Christie or Sarah Palin would not cause them to change their vote. Thirty-four percent said they would change their vote to Christie and 23 percent would change to Palin.
*Seventy-five percent said the gender of the nominee wouldn’t matter to them. Less than 5 percent said they would rather see a woman as the nominee.
* Half identified themselves as part of the tea party movement and half did not.
Connect with Brent Batten at naplesnews.com/staff/brent_batten