In a state Republican Party straw poll released last week, Texas Congressman Ron Paul took a plurality of votes, with businessman Herman Cain placing second. The results were announced Dec. 5, the same day that Cain, who by then had already suspended his presidential campaign, appeared at a Republican rally and fundraiser in Oklahoma City.
The nonscientific poll, which had been on the state GOP website and cost a minimum donation of $5 to the state party, saw Paul handily win with 46 percent of the vote. Cain (pictured) received 25 percent, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, now the front-runner in most national polls, getting 17 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney drew 6 percent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry received 3 percent and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann got 2 percent. Ex-Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson combined for the remaining 1 percent.
Cain’s appearance here came two days after he had suspended his campaign amid accusations of sexual harassment and adultery. The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO said he had asked state GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell if he was still wanted to headline the fundraiser, and Pinnell replied that he did.
The event drew about 250 people.
Because Cain suspended his campaign shortly before the straw poll closed, his name remained on the ballot. Pinnell said he suspects many of those supporters may now go to Gingrich.
“The question is where do Cain’s people go?” Pinnell said.
“I think Newt would have been much higher.”
But that might be tricky. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, arguably the state’s most popular Republican officeholder, has assailed Gingrich on several occasions. Coburn, who served under the former House speaker for four years in the 1990s, has called Gingrich’s leadership “lacking.”
What about Paul?
Paul, a staunch libertarian who also ran for president in 2008, has performed well in many states’ straw polls. “He was this organized four years ago, so I’m not surprised that he’s this organized four years later,” Pinnell (pictured) said.
“He does the ground game; that’s what we do 24/7. When I see a good ground game, I appreciate it, and that’s what he has done well.”
While Paul’s grassroots organization here is strong, it’s the Perry camp that has the Oklahoma money. According to the nonpar tisan Center for Responsive Politics, the Texas governor has received $456,650 from in-state contributors as of Dec. 5. Romney trailed with $52,070 and Paul with $50,251.
But Perry’s campaign has floundered in the wake of less-than-stellar debate performances.
Cain was the latest speaker in the state GOP’s speaker series. Romney participated during a visit to Oklahoma City in October.
Pinnell said state Republicans are hoping to get Gingrich to be the next speaker, although it would likely be after the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10. Pinnell said he is also in talks with the Paul camp to bring their candidate to the state.