RPOF to Host Debate, Presidential Straw Poll in September
Organizers expect 3,500 delegates across the Sunshine State to attend
Around the State
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) announced Friday that it will host a debate between the Republican presidential candidates, which will be televised on Fox News, and the “Presidential 5” straw poll in September.
“Florida continues to be the largest and most important swing state,” insisted Gov. Rick Scott in a call to the media held Friday afternoon.
“It will be a great economic boost to Orlando and to the state,” the governor enthused. “It’s going to be a great event.”
RPOF Chairman David Bitner said the event, set for Orlando from Sept. 22-24, will draw 3,500 delegates. He noted that, since the first one in 1979, every single Republican presidential candidate has won the Florida straw poll.
But the Florida straw poll does not always translate to success. While Bob Dole, who went on to win the Republican presidential nomination, won the straw poll in 1995 with 33 percent, his nearest rival, Phil Gramm who took 26 percent of the poll, sputtered on the campaign trail and did not even get to New Hampshire. Pat Buchanan, who won the New Hampshire primary and came closer than the rest of the field to derailing Dole, did not even compete in the event and garnered less than 10 percent of the straw poll. Steve Forbes, who would win contests in Arizona and Delaware, pulled less than 1 percent in the Florida straw poll, but did better in the primaries than second-place finisher Gramm and Lamar Alexander, who took the bronze at the straw poll.
Both Scott and Bitner said they expect most of the major candidates to attend the event in September. Bitner added that he spoke to several of the major campaigns, though he did not identify which ones have committed.
Longtime Republican activist Fred Karger, who has already announced that he will run for the nomination, told Sunshine State News Friday that he is looking forward to entering the straw poll.
“The Florida straw poll definitely sounds like something we would like to participate in,” Karger said. “Coming about a year before the Republican National Convention in Tampa, it sure sounds like the place to be.”
Karger, who has worked for nine Republican presidential campaigns over the years, pointed to his recent success in the St. Anselm College straw poll in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary.
“The last straw poll I was in, I beat Mitt Romney for five votes up in New Hampshire, and look forward to beating him in Florida too,” added Karger.
Romney, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, former Gov. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania have already launched presidential exploratory committees.
Also considering entering the campaign are U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, former Alabama state Chief Justice Roy Moore, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Gov. George Pataki of New York, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and businessman Donald Trump.
"Governor Roemer, of course, recognizes the importance of Florida. At this time, we are focusing on the first presidential debate, which will be held on May 5th in Greenville," a spokesman for the Roemer campaign told Sunshine State News. "After the debate, we'll begin calendaring out into the fall."
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.