There hasn’t been much noise in the MSM, apart from the FoxGoogle debate, but the Super-Conservative wing of the Conservative Republican Conservatives have actually spent the whole last three days networking & nitpicking in Orlando — presumably as a kind of warm-up / road-test for next year’s GOP Convention in Tampa, aka “the herpes sore on America’s wang”. I’m very grateful that Dave Weigel at Slate has been covering the three-ring tent show, because I’d rather read about such antics at one remove, and besides, Weigel has a sharp eye for the telling detail…
ORLANDO, Fla. — Ralph Reed has never lost his knack for PR. His Faith & Freedom Coalition (“Pro-Family, Pro-Freedom”) is holding its inaugural Florida conference right across the street from the Florida GOP’s three-day “Presidency 5” summit/debate/straw poll. Seven presidential candidates will speak on a stage framed on the right by the American flag, the state flag of Florida, and the flag of Israel…
I noticed that William Temple, the costumed “Tea Party patriot” who materializes at every one of these events as if beamed down from the Enterprise, was seated not far from us…We chatted briefly about Temple’s favorite topic of the day: The Christian faith of the founders.
“They said that we might lose our way if we didn’t elect Christians,” said Temple. “And I ask you, have we gotten there yet?”
Who was “they”? It wasn’t from the Constitution, Temple explained. He pulled out a sheaf of paper, flipping past some maps of Orlando to find a quote from revolutionary era North Carolina Gov. Samuel Johnston.
It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans, pagans, etc., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States Those who are Mahometans, or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President, or other high office, but in one of two cases. First, if the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves….
Jews, Mahometans, Pagans! Speaking of scary juxtapositions, here’s my first introduction to a group that makes “GOProud” seem almost reasonable by comparison:
At noon [Friday], instead of racing back to the main hall of CPAC Florida to watch a few presidential candidate speeches, I dropped into the second Tea Party Debt Commission meeting, sponsored by FreedomWorks. Dick Armey’s Tea Party collossus took over the dining room of a Denny’s, put a powerpoint presentation on a flat screen TV, and began 90 minutes of debate about how to cut the budget.
I grabbed a seat at a table with a group of Frederick Douglass Republicans, black conservatives who shared their stories of speaking at Tea Party events and making converts. They were having some success, they said, in converting fellow black men. “Frederick Douglass is a badge of honor,” explained K. Carl Smith, who was selling a book about his politics. “Barack Obama is a shield of shame.”
Luck, reporter’s instinct, prescience? Here’s the results of tonight’s culminating straw poll:
Herman Cain won the Presidency 5 Florida Straw poll with 996 votes, 37.1 percent of the total, blowing past Rick Perry and Ron Paul, both of whom had organized to win here. He more than doubled the Perry vote; more delegates chose Cain than chose Perry and Romney, combined.
“It shows you something,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “The road to the White House is right through Florida. It pays to be here.”
Of course, Perry had shown up — he was here from Thursday night to Saturday morning, working over delegates personally. By failing so convincingly, Perry’s ensured that the weekend’s “trouble for frontrunner narrative” will be plated in gold and frozen in amber.
“I’m okay with second place,” shrugged Perry supporter Tony Jackson, from Hillsborough County. “But let’s be honest. Losing by 22 points is pretty bad. Perry’s a better speaker than debater.”
Why is Cain’s win so impressive? This wasn’t a vote a campaign could overwhelm with its own supporters. To win the Ames straw poll, you need to buy $35 tickets for as many Iowans as possible. Here, delegates were selected in counties, and had to pay $175 to attend the weekend’s events. The relatively poor showing by Paul is better than he could have pulled off in 2007 — he got less than 5 percent of the primary vote — but it gives us a more realistic picture of his grassroots backing. Meanwhile, in the Tea Party-flavored GOP, Cain is a rock star who generated deep effection. Multiple delegates told me they wanted to send the message that he should be second on the ticket.
I know — the CW smart money says it’s Romney/Perry, or maybe Perry/Romney, as of 13 months from the actual election. Which is good news for us Democrats, because (barring unspeakable tragedy) any combination involving either of those two cements President Obama’s second term. But I am sufficiently small-minded and partisan to take pleasure in a scenario where Romney OR Perry is forced to pretend personal comity with a man who, however deluded his politics, has actually lived all the bootstrapping, personal-responsibility, make-your-own-success parables they’ve been forced to mouth as pieties for the rubes.