Having watched the debate Thursday night, and having heard the candidates speak and having mingled with them over the subsequent couple of days, 70 percent of the activists attending the Florida Republican gathering this weekend cast a vote of no confidence in the two GOP frontrunners.
So, with all the usual caveats about not over-interpreting straw polls, I’d suggest:
1. There is resistance to both Rick Perry (15 percent) and Mitt Romney (14 percent). Perry’s poor debate performance hurt him—but it doesn’t seem to have redounded to Mitt Romney’s benefit. Perhaps neither Perry nor Romney will end up as the nominee. After all, the two GOP frontrunners in national polls in late September 2007 were Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. The Democratic frontrunners in a Gallup poll on September 24, 2003 were Wesley Clark and Howard Dean.
2. Herman Cain (37 percent) will obviously get a new, more serious look. Still, with all due respect to Cain, to some degree voting for him is voting for none of the above.
3. Rick Santorum, who made it into double digits and beat Ron Paul, will also get a more serious look.
4. It’s hard to see much of a path ahead for Newt Gingrich (8 percent), or Jon Hunstman and Michele Bachmann (2 percent each).
5. There will be a lot of attention paid to Chris Christie’s Reagan Library speech Tuesday.