Senate candidate George LeMieux won the straw poll of the Florida Federation of Republican Women straw poll after yesterday's forum. Frontrunner Connie Mack came in third -- last place -- behind former Army Reserves Col. Mike McCalister.
FFRW President Cindy Graves said the results were "surprising." She said the organization wouldn't release the vote totals for each candidate, just the order.
Straw polls come and go, but this one matters because these are the red-meat Republican grassroots soul of the party. If they liked LeMieux, it says he performed well in the forum and that Mack wasn't so hot. There's also a word-of-mouth aspect to the win: The FFRW members will tell their friends and send the message that Charlie Crist's former brain is his own man.
According to some Republicans in the room, LeMieux won for four reasons: 1) He came off as the most-informed on the issues, 2) He drew a distinction between him and Mack, who had voted for billions of dollars of earmarks in Congress 3) Mack seemed a bit nervous, walking around instead of sitting down at one point, 4) LeMieux went last, and that leaves an impression.
"We represent the largest grassroots army in the state, especially if our members get behind a campaign," said Graves, counting her membership at 3,500. "The FFRW doesn't endorse, but once the Republican women shine a light on you get help in and it helps with fundraising."
Here's the AP story on the forum and our story (source documents here, video here), which focused more on Mack addressing questions about his finances -- a line of inquiry he found "ridiculous" and an issue he sort of blamed on his ex-wife.
Mack wasn't asked about his finances. But LeMieux was asked about his relationship with Crist and, it appears, answered the question satisfactorily.
The press release:
(Tallahassee, Florida) Former Senator George LeMieux was the decided winner of the straw poll conducted by the Florida Federation of Republican Women in Tallahassee this past Sunday at the Hotel Duval. The straw poll comes on the heel of the first ever and hugely successful FFRW U.S. Senate forum as part of the FFRW annual meeting.
While only the leadership of the Florida Federation of Republican Women participated in the straw poll, the meeting was standing room only accommodating elected officials, members of the media, other local Republican friends including RNC CoChair Sharon Day, Congressman Steve Southerland, Congresswoman Sandy Adams,Representative Matt Gaetz and Commissioner Bryan Desloge.
Senator LeMieux spoke on topics that included the importance of following the Constitution and the importance of family and God to the success of this nation. He is ready to challenge Bill Nelson on his record.
"To host such a tremendous event has been such an honor for the members of the Florida Federation of Republican Women. Congratulations to Senator LeMieux and a heartfelt thanks to Congressman Connie Mack and Col Mike McCalister as well. We are invigorated and motivated to take the fight all the way to defeat Senator Nelson," says President Cindy Graves. She also stated that while the straw poll indicated the feelings of the GOP women leadership, the results do not constitute an endorsement.