A shrewd vendor could have turned a quick profit selling Herman Cain T-shirts after the Georgia businessman scored his stunning straw poll victory in Orlando on Saturday.
Question is, will Republicans be wearing them when Florida holds its presidential primary next year?
Cain may have Andrew Breitbart to thank for stirring up the Presidency 5 convention. The fiery Saturday morning speech by the conservative commentator and controversial news aggregator fueled an anti-establishment fervor that culminated in Cain, the ultimate outsider, grabbing 37 percent of the P5 vote.
Cain deftly turned his supposed liability of never having held elected office into an asset with the Republican crowd at the Orange County Convention Center.
"In all of his speeches, he did a good job of throwing red meat to the crowd, and they ate it up," said Karl Zimmermann, a state committeeman from Indian River County.
Yet for every action, there's a reaction, and the political push-back began immediately.
With the putative front-runners faltering in Florida, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's name bubbled up again in the mainstream media as the default Republican savior.
On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott appeared to tone down his pre-straw poll predictions that the P5 victor would have the inside track to winning Florida's primary, the party's nomination and the presidency in 2012. Cain is catchable, he said, but it will take work.
"If you are going to beat Herman Cain in Florida, you are going to have to spend a lot of time in Florida," Scott told Fox News.
Scott spokesman Lane Wright later told Sunshine State News:
"Herman Cain’s jobs plan certainly resonated with Florida’s Republican faithful and it shows that anyone who wants to win the nomination will have to work very hard in Florida to beat him. Cain’s win reinforces the fact that no candidate can take Florida for granted."
Scott, who had never run for political office prior to winning the governorship last fall, is believed to lean toward Rick Perry. After Perry finished a distant second in the straw poll, Scott suggested the Texas governor should have campaigned harder on his job-creation record.
Myra Adams, who worked on George W. Bush's 2004 campaign and John McCain's 2008 campaign, said Cain's victory was "no fluke." But she cautioned, "It is also not a national game-changer with Cain as the new front-runner to challenge Perry and Mitt Romney."
Rather, Adams called the straw poll result "a positive, emotional response to Herman Cain, the man, with some teachable moments for the front-runners."
Chief among the political science lessons at P5:
"Florida Republicans are very proud of the fact that the road to the national nomination runs through the Florida 2012 primary, and they are going to make all the front-runners pay a steep toll in time and attention," Adams said.
Meantime, Cain's policy proposals are coming under heavier scrutiny -- and attack.
His "9-9-9" program of a 9 percent federal income tax, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent national consumption tax is drawing some of the fiercest fire.
"I don't understand how the 9-9-9 plan -- which includes both a national sales tax and an income tax while purporting to repeal the 16th Amendment at some point -- can be taken seriously by anyone who feels we are already overtaxed," said Andrew Nappi, director of the Florida 10th Amendment Center.
Nappi joined other fiscal conservatives in criticizing Cain's previous support of the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP) and his endorsement of Romney in 2008.
Zimmermann, a Romney supporter, said, "I don't know anyone who has vetted the 9-9-9 proposal and confirmed it as a viable plan."
Problematic elements include the elimination of Social Security payroll taxes and the imposition of a 9 percent tax rate on everyone -- including the 47 percent of filers who do not currently pay taxes.
"I don't know if any president could get that passed. It would be political suicide for Congress -- even one with a GOP supermajority," Zimmermann predicted.
Sarah Rumpf, a Republican political consultant and blogger, said, "I understand the criticism that the addition of a sales tax risks creeping tax increases, like Europe's VAT taxes. However, one of my biggest problems with our tax code is how horribly complex it is."
"Cain's plan resonated with the Presidency 5 delegates in no small part because it was so simple. Consider the time and expense required to comply with our current tax laws; freeing Americans from that burden is likely to spur economic and jobs growth," Rumpf said.
She added, "If you drastically simplify the tax code, any attempts to increase taxes would be much easier to see. Sales taxes. in particular. are one of the most transparent kinds of taxes, and therefore easiest for people to evaluate and, when necessary, oppose."
Sullivan dismissed suggestions that Cain is a "big-government" advocate.
"If that's true, then everyone else must be for gigantic government. This is part of the game -- attach negative labels to people," she said.
Sullivan, who supports the FAIR Tax plan to replace the income tax with a consumption tax, estimated that barely half of Republicans fully understand the program. In addition to Cain, other GOP presidential hopefuls advocating some form of a FAIR Tax include Rick Perry, Ron Paul and Gary Johnson.
The Cain campaign calls the 9-9-9 plan a transitional step toward the FAIR Tax. Cain, a former Godfather's Pizza CEO and member of the Kansas City Federal Reserve, assures that the proposal is "revenue neutral."
Jim McGovern, an organizer with the Martin County 9/12 Tea Party Committee, says the political stars may be aligning for the survivor of Stage 4 liver and colon cancer.
"His platform is elegant, in that the public is looking for a simple, straightforward approach to a complicated world. We know that is not possible, but it can be presented in a package for voters," McGovern said.
"After Bill Clinton, voters were looking for a president who had character. After Barack Obama, they want a 'real American' success story. Cain is Donald Trump without the attitude," McGovern concluded.
Danita Kulcullen, head of Tea Party Fort Lauderdale and a P5 delegate, said, "Herman is a huge win for conservatives, whether he wins the primary or not. It was a stunning blow to both liberals and RINO Republicans.
"The tea party drove this win and the world should take notice," she said, adding, "Does this not quiet the 'racist' label that we have been dealt?"
Cain's Florida boomlet has yet to resound nationally, however. A CNN International poll conducted Friday through Sunday, showed Perry at 28 percent; Romney, 21 percent; Newt Gingrich, 10 percent; and Cain tied with Ron Paul and an undeclared Sarah Palin at 7 percent.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.