Orlando, Fla. — To get a grip of the mood that swept Florida Republicans these past few days and lead to Herman Cain’s surprise victory in today’s straw poll, consider Kelly Rainer’s take.
“I came in leaning towards Perry, but I really liked Cain,” Rainer, a Florida stay-at-mom, said after watching the debate and hearing the speeches at CPAC Florida. “I liked Cain’s plan that he laid out. I liked his enthusiasm and his love of America.”
Cain isn’t the only candidate who has released an economic plan. Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and Newt Gingrich have all released their own economic policy solutions. But it is Cain’s 9-9-9 plan alone that seems to have sunk into the GOP consciousness.
“I want him to be stronger,” Rainer said of Perry. “I just want to see it. I don’t feel he has as great a command of what he’s talking about. Maybe just he hasn’t been in the race as long as the other guys. I feel like every debate they pick something out to hit him at, and I haven’t felt him respond the way I want to hear. I’m waiting, though.”
Faith Martin, who first met Cain at a Jacksonville, Fla. rally about a year ago, described her reasons for favoring Cain this way: “He is so genuine. And so real in his thoughts. He’s not political. I think he’s got a lot of solutions. I think maybe getting a business person in the White House might solve a lot of the problems we have now.”
Martin, who was wearing a Herman Cain t-shirt today, acknowledges she was originally “on the fence” about whether to give him her vote today because of concerns about his electability. But attending a rally he was at last night in an Orlando hotel, she decided to vote for him. “I thought, ‘If I don’t support him, who’s going to?’ He’s really my guy, and I’ve got to stand up and support him today,” she says.
Martin has also decided he has a chance to win the primary election.
“It’s early,” she says. “The more people get to know Herman, the more they’re going to like him. Give the guy a chance. I send him little donations whenever I can and I really hope he can hang in there.”
Suzanne Moore, a Cain volunteer at the straw poll, first heard Herman Cain speak at CPAC a couple years back, and has been a devoted fan ever since. She said that the rally Martin mentioned had originally been scheduled for one room, but so many people showed up that they had to move it to a room that held 700 people — and that room was so packed it became standing room only.
“I went through the lines [to the rally] and asked people about why they’re here and what they thought about his speeches and everything. And I had so many people come up and say, ‘I was here for Perry, and then when I heard him [at the debate], now I’m on Cain’s train,’” Moore recalls.
“They just liked what they heard that Mr. Cain proposed,” she says of the response to Cain’s performance at the debate. “They liked the fact that he has a plan and he’s articulating that plan. I think they’re a little tired of the bickering back and forth and they wanted somebody who’s just about the issues, just about what we need to do as Americans, doesn’t like all that political bantering back and forth.”
Cain signs a Tea Partier’s “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
People wait outside Cain’s bus to speak to him. Eventually, a crowd of about 150 people would be there to get a chance to meet him.