No, it wasn't a fluke. Herman Cain won the Florida 5 Straw Poll very decisively with 37% of the votes cast. And for the Republican hierarchy and more importantly, for the candidates, these results should serve as a wake-up call.
The debates and the questions so far have been focused on the "front runners", with the second tier candidates politely treated as afterthoughts. However, this past weekend, the Florida voters decided to send a message, loud and clear to the media, candidates, and blogosphere who have made the Republican primaries choosing of THE candidate who can go the distance and defeat Obama their sole focus.
The Cain victory in Florida serves as an important reminder that it's not only what you say, but how you say it.
I've watched every debate thus far, and have listened to the questions asked and the responses/non-responses given. We all expect candidates to be prepared by their handlers, and to have certain rehearsed responses. However, this time around it's different. Long-term unemployment, ongoing home foreclosures, stock market volatility, wages that are not keeping up with increasingly higher prices, have taken their toll on the national psyche and rocked the foundations of institutions, values and beliefs we have always trusted.
In the debate Thursday night, Herman Cain spoke about his own bout with cancer and put a human face, his own, on the crisis facing us with Obamacare. The audience could relate. He is a businessman who started on the proverbial low rung of the ladder, and worked his way up to success. The audience could relate. He stood there on the podium and talked to people, defining the problems and his approach to finding the solutions. All this without the canned responses. To use a current buzz word, he was "authentic", and the audience could relate. The voters in the straw poll could relate. And they rewarded him with a significant victory.
Herman Cain may not win the nomination, and he may still be considered "tier two" by many, but what his win in Florida did was reinforce the important dynamic that the same 'ol, same 'ol way of politicking and speech stumping will not be enough to win over voters this time. Voters are looking for that individual who combines competence, confidence, and real world experience with the common touch. They want to know that he understands their worries, fears and uncertainties, and in some cases, their heartbreak. They don't necessarily want another Ronald Reagan incarnate, but they do want someone who believes in "Morning in America", and who has the backbone, toughness, and plain 'ol gumption to get us there.
Which leads me to Chris Christie......