Video produced by Sara Kenigsberg
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain came out on top in the Florida straw poll on Saturday.
The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza won the test of conservative strength with roughly 37 percent of the vote. Texas Governor Rick Perry came in second place, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who did not actively compete in the event. Here's a full breakdown of the results:
Herman Cain: 37.11%
Rick Perry: 15.43%
Mitt Romney: 14.00%
Rick Santorum: 10.88%
Ron Paul: 10.39%
Newt Gingrich: 8.43%
Jon Huntsman: 2.26%
Michele Bachmann: 1.51%
"This is a sign of our growing momentum and my candidacy that cannot be ignored," Cain said in a statement addressing the results. "I will continue to share my message of 'common sense solutions' across this country and look forward to spending more time in Florida, a critical state for both the nomination and the general election."
Perry, who was expected by many to win the straw poll, signaled his belief earlier in the day that it was a "big mistake" for rival candidates like Romney and Bachmann to opt against campaigning for support in the event.
The Lone Star State Republican said, "I've got all my hopes on Florida."
HuffPost's Jon Ward reported from Florida on Friday:
Just a few weeks ago, the Texas governor was taking the Republican presidential primary by storm, but his star has fallen rapidly over the course of his first three debates. On Thursday night, it came crashing down.
Conservatives flocked to the three-day conclave here – kicked off by the Google-Fox News debate Thursday night – "ready to marry" Perry, but left "spooked" by his performance, said one Florida Republican with contacts among both campaign operatives and grassroots activists.
That discontent has been building, though it's not final in any sense. Perry's fortunes have fallen in large part because of a series of gaffes that demonstrated his lack of discipline and experience on a national stage. In several key moments during the past few weeks, the governor showed a tendency to undermine some of his best moments and to make tough or difficult moments even worse. His potential supporters have grown leery of Perry as the list of his unforced errors has grown longer.
Before hitting bumps in the road, Perry experienced a surge in the polls after announcing his candidacy for president of the United States. The Texas governor jumped into the GOP primary race the same day as the Ames Straw Poll. He did not actively compete in the event, which was won by Bachmann.
Even though Bachmann did not campaign for support in the Florida straw poll, the conservative congresswoman's eighth place finish is likely to be treated as a sign of bad news for her political ambitions.
Nevertheless, on Friday Bachmann said she's "in it for the long haul" despite many framing the race as a match-up between Perry and Romney for the Republican presidential nomination.
Whether or not the results of the Florida straw poll will affect the state of the GOP primary race remains to be seen. While Cain has been considered a longshot contender in the Republican contest, the presidential hopeful has found success in appealing to conservatives on the trail.
For more on Herman Cain, check out the slideshow below:
A relative unknown upon his entry into the race, Herman Cain has experienced promising numbers in both name recognition, as well as the new metric of "positive intensity." These upward trends have since propelled him to the top of many GOP primary polls. In late June, a Gallup poll showed Cain's name recognition up 25 percent from earlier in the year, to 46 percent. Meanwhile, his positive intensity score stood at 24, among the highest of any candidate in the field. Enthusiastic supporters have also helped Cain take impressive wins at a variety of early straw poll events. He's taken the top spot at the Western Conservative Summit, the Georgia GOP Straw Poll in August (Georgia is Cain's home state), and more recently in Florida and Chicago. Cain also won a February straw poll at an Arizona Tea Party event, beating Ron Paul in a vote among attendees, though at the time he was the only officially declared 2012 candidate involved.
Cain's first trip to the political spotlight was launched by what is now called a "YouTube moment," though it took place more than a decade before the website was launched. It has since been re-transformed into a YouTube clip. The highlight came in 1994 when Cain, then CEO of Godfather's Pizza, duked it out with Clinton at a town hall forum the president was holding to push his health care reform proposal. As Slate's Dave Weigel reports: Cain got a question in. He'd been a turnaround artist at Pillsbury, working with Burger King, and in 1986 he'd been put in command of the failing Godfather's Pizza franchise. He saved it with triage, closing 250 of around 800 restaurants, before leading an investor group that bought the franchise and put him in charge. By the time he met Clinton, he had been elected president of the National Restaurant Association. This explained some of his confidence as he lit into his president. "On behalf of all of those business owners that are in a situation similar to mine," asked Cain, "my question is, quite simply, if I'm forced to do this what will I tell those people whose jobs I will have to eliminate?" "Well, wait a minute," said Clinton, attempting a charm offensive. "Let's ask--let's talk a minute about what you would have to do." The employer mandate would add only 2 percent to Cain's costs, Clinton argued, and Cain could just charge more for pizza. "I'm a satisfied customer, I'd keep buying from you." "Mr. President," said Cain, "with all due respect, your calculation on what the impact would do, quite honestly, is incorrect." It didn't take long for this clip to make the rounds, which won Cain commendations from Republican icons such as Newt Gingrich, Jack Kemp and Rush Limbaugh. For more on Cain's rapid political rise, read the rest of Weigel's piece at Slate.
Cain has been making a big pitch for his "9-9-9" plan, which would eliminate some taxes such as the payroll tax and estate tax, and lower a variety of others, leaving business taxes and income taxes at a flat rate of 9 percent. It would also create a national sales tax of 9 percent. The 999 plan has been criticized as an economic blueprint that would put a bigger tax burden on the middle class. HuffPost's Amanda Terkel also reported that the simple tax structure exhibited some similarities to the default given to players in the video game, SimCity 4. Cain added an important update to his plan in October, outlining tax exemptions for poorer Americans and economically depressed areas. The Associated Press reports: After sharp criticism over his one-size-fits-all plan from Republicans and Democrats alike, Cain proposed no income taxes for Americans living at or below the poverty line. He also proposed exemptions for businesses investing in "opportunity zones" as a way to give an economic jolt to rundown neighborhoods such as the one he visited in hard-hit Detroit.
Herman Cain has repeatedly caused consternation with questionable comments about Islam and American Muslims. At a March event held in Iowa for prospective presidential candidates, Cain said outright that he wouldn't appoint any Muslims to his cabinet if elected, over fears that they would work to install Sharia law. He later attempted to walk that statement back, saying "I am not anti-Muslim. I am anti-terrorist." Months later, Cain stoked more scrutiny when he said Americans "have the right" to block mosques in their communities. The claim came in response to a question by "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace about Cain's criticism of a planned Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which had sparked protests from residents of the town. He later held a summit with Muslim leaders to try to patch up relations with the community. AP reported at the time: Cain met with four Muslim leaders in Sterling, Va. He said in a statement later he was "truly sorry" for comments that may have "betrayed" his commitment to the Constitution and the religious freedom it guarantees.
Cain's first display of political greenness came at an inopportune time, during his campaign announcement in May. Speaking to his followers about the importance of following the Constitution, Cain seemed to refer to the Declaration of Independence. "We don't need to rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America, we need to reread the Constitution and enforce the Constitution," Cain said. "And I know that there are some people that are not going to do that, so for the benefit of those that are not going to read it because they don't want us to go by the Constitution, there's a little section in there that talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The Constitution, of course, doesn't reference "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Weeks later, Cain made another public blunder on Fox News Sunday, when he appeared to be confused on the concept of Palestinian "Right of Return," or the belief that Palestinians, as well as their descendants, who were forced to leave their property in Israel should be allowed to return. Israel is firmly opposed to the "Right of Return," and considering Cain had slammed President Obama earlier for his supposedly anti-Israel approach to Middle Eastern affairs, his apparent confusion on the issue didn't go unnoticed.
Cain made a big impression in Omaha in the '80s when he helped spearhead an effort to save an inner-city youth center. It eventually culminated in a series of charity gospel concerts that raised more than $5 million for a new branch. HuffPost's Andrea Stone reports: It was the late 1980s and the then-CEO of Godfather's Pizza and self-made multimillionaire brokered a deal with the YMCA of Greater Omaha to merge with the struggling Edmonson Youth Outreach Center so that its founder could get health insurance. Joe Edmonson was a beloved wrestling coach in the community who, despite being a quadriplegic, inspired a generation of underprivileged black youth. Cain had joined the board of the sports and after-school program in predominantly-black north Omaha after a young wrestler whose mother worked as a janitor at Godfather's headquarters approached him to help sponsor a team trip to a national tournament. So when the local YMCA approached Cain, one of Omaha's most prominent African American business leaders, for help to raise funds for a new neighborhood branch, he agreed. But only if the Y merged with the Edmonson Center. But the object of Cain's charitable affection may have changed of late, Stone notes: In recent years, Cain has written more checks to political causes and candidates than to charity. But the former businessman and conservative radio talk show host had chosen in years past to focus his philanthropy on education for inner-city youth so, he has said, they can overcome poverty and racial discrimination the way he did. Cain has also donated large sums to The University of Nebraska at Omaha, Morehouse College and Antioch Baptist Church. For more on the giving habits of other GOP presidential candidates, click here.
Cain has sought to capitalize off of his supposed political outsider status, but a recent report suggested that the one-time pizza mogul may be deeply involved with some of the powerful, moneyed influencers in Washington politics --particularly the Koch brothers. From the Associated Press : Cain's campaign manager and a number of aides have worked for Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, the advocacy group founded with support from billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which lobbies for lower taxes and less government regulation and spending. Cain credits a businessman who served on an AFP advisory board with helping devise his "9-9-9" plan to rewrite the nation's tax code. And his years of speaking at AFP events have given the businessman and radio host a network of loyal grassroots fans. Read the rest of the report here.
Politico reported in late October that two women had filed sexual harassment complaints against Cain during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Cain has denied that the allegations had any merit, though his reaction to the resultant firestorm has been anything but consistent. After first claiming ignorance, Cain later admitted to knowing more about the story than he had first let on. The video above documents Cain's vacillation on the facts of the report.