A bunch of the state's Republican activists gathered this weekend at the Presidency 5 conference and held one of those crazy, meaningless straw polls of which they're so fond. Of course, with a wide-open and ever-changing Republican field, the contest did take on extra meaning. Texas Gov. Rick Perry had hoped to claim a victory to cement his frontrunner status. Instead, former Godfather's Pizza CEO and Tea Party favorite Herman Cain pulled off a surprise victory. His chances of actually winning the GOP nomination are now only slightly less distant, but he probably secured himself a speaking spot at the GOP convention and a place on the vice presidential shortlist.
With Mitt Romney and the now-fading Michele Bachmann choosing not to compete, Perry's 6-week-old campaign hoped to claim a momentum-building victory. Though, after a fumbling debate performance in which he chose not to appear -- gasp -- 100 percent evil about immigration, the conservative activists instead chose to fire a warning shot at Perry's face. There are even rumors that Romney supporters decided to support Cain in the straw poll to embarrass Perry.
Whatever happened, Cain walked away with 37 percent of the vote. Perry finished a distant second at 15 percent. Romney scored 14 percent, despite not contesting the poll.
So what does this mean for Cain, the man who can fire up Tea Party crowds with his passionate speeches but has never run for elected office? Let's remember, this poll was not indicative of the GOP electorate at large, and made up of the preference of activist types. Plus, Cain has something of a reputation as a reluctant candidate, and his fundraising and campaign organization are far outmatched by those of Perry and Romney.
Though, the GOP and the Tea Party know they have a bit of a racism problem (something Cain himself vehemently denies). Barack Obama's election likely means the age of parties putting two white guys on the same ticket are over, and the GOP wouldn't help itself much in the racism department by, well, putting two white guys on the same ticket to take on America's first black president. This is part of the reason why many observers see Marco Rubio as prime-running-mate material.
However, Cain's connection to the Tea Party would be valuable, especially if a centrist such as Romney walked away with the nomination. As long as Cain gets through the rest of the primary season without controversy, don't be surprised to see his name on the VP shortlist come next year.
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