AP Delays Dedicating a Story to Cain's Fla. Victory Until 'Today' Puts Him on the Defensive

September 26th, 2011 10:17 PM

Herman Cain's victory in Saturday's GOP straw poll in Florida didn't become headline news at the Associated Press until after the candidate's Monday morning "Today Show" interview. Earlier today at NewsBusters, Kyle Drennen noted how "Today's" Ann Curry tried to frame the result as some kind of "protest vote."

Having delayed dedicating a story to Cain's victory for roughly 36 hours, the headline in AP's unbylined story this morning was: "GOP's Cain says win in Fla. straw poll not a fluke." In other words, it didn't become news at the wire service until someone else in the media put the candidate on the defensive about the significance of his win, thus avoiding giving him any moment of unvarnished recognition for the good old-fashioned butt-kicking he delivered (37% Cain, 15% Perry, 14% Romney, 11% Santorum, all others under 10%). How convenient.

A more detailed rendition: Saturday night (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that the AP's Philip Elliott and Kasie Hunt did not even deign to devote a story to Cain's victory. The only Cain-related activity on Sunday was what was from all appearances a slight update of the Saturday evening story which relegated the details of Cain's victory to Paragraph 12, while burning most of the first eleven paragraphs with Rick Perry's situation and the supposed interest in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's possible candidacy.

This morning's unbylined six-paragraph AP report made sure to plant seeds of doubt before telling readers what actually happened on Saturday:

GOP's Cain says win in Fla. straw poll not a fluke

Businessman Herman Cain says his victory in the Florida Republican straw poll was authentic and wasn't a statement by voters against Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Cain tells NBC's "Today" show the weekend test balloting was "not a protest vote."

Cain says his performance shows "the voice of the people is more powerful than the voice of the media."

... Cain says the straw poll illustrates that "people are listening to the message and not just, with all due respect, to the media."

Two reports at Pajamas Media, one by Kyle-Anne Shiver and the other by Myra Adams, reinforce the notion that Cain's win was far from flukey, and far from insignificant.

First, Ms. Shiver:

The first time I heard Herman Cain refer to himself as “the dark-horse candidate,” I knew that man had the kind of character and wisdom which smart people look for when picking a leader. Cain has risen so far above the superficiality of racialist, skin-color thinking that he makes those who pander to it or run from it look like a bunch of kindergarteners hurling spitballs.

... For one thing, the Presidency 5 isn’t run like Iowa’s straw poll. In Florida, the state party leaders take their swing-state significance and their 29 large-share electoral votes very seriously. Not just anyone who shows up at Presidency 5 gets to vote in the election (and they call it an “election,” not a “straw poll”).

... Every person casting a vote in Florida’s poll has been active in party politics and earned their spot, which makes Florida’s pre-election poll much more significant than Iowa’s...

... No matter how the pundits slice, dice, or try to puree Cain’s phenomenal victory this weekend in Florida, this shakes up the presidential race in much the same way that the Tea Party has been doing since the spring of 2009. Cain’s win might not signal an earthquake yet, but it helps him in some very significant ways.

For one thing, the Florida Republican Party delegates have sent a very loud message to the high-rolling insiders in D.C. The conservative party base has grown very weary of its step-child status among the GOP establishment and are signaling that they might not just go along to get along this time around.

... Herman Cain was on the ground in Orlando by Friday morning, just after a sterling debate performance in Tampa the night before. Cain, the nomination underdog, worked hard Friday and Saturday, speaking extemporaneously to small groups of delegates — groups that reportedly grew larger and larger as the weekend progressed. And Cain was evidently winning voters over one at a time the way candidates used to do it — in person. They call it “retail politics.”

... Floridian delegates got over their “not electable” reticence and took a chance with Cain. Cain says this is what you call “momentum,” and he’s turned around failing businesses enough to know momentum by its scent.

Ms. Adams doesn't believe that Cain's performance was necessarily a game-changer, but came away duly impressed:

Herman Cain showered the delegates with lots of love, inspiration, and political wisdom. The delegates, in turn, received his love. In fact, they were positively smitten, and rewarded Cain with their votes. This blossoming love affair unfolded slowly and built up to a frenzy right before the straw poll votes were cast.

... So what happened between Thursday night and late Saturday afternoon that enabled Cain to win over the hearts and minds of 37% of the delegates, with Perry receiving 15.4% and Romney 14%?

As one of the delegates succinctly said to me shortly after Cain’s victory was announced, “Cain is a businessman; he groomed us, he entertained us, and he closed the sale.” Another delegate leaned first towards Perry, then after the debate towards Romney, and ended up voting for Cain, because he said “Romney ignored us” and “his organization was poor.”

... (At CPAC’s Friday night "Reagan Reception") Cain mesmerized the crowd with what I call a cross between a Tony Robbins-style motivational speech and a Sunday morning church sermon in a slow, deep, voice that sounded like the movie voice of God.

Furthermore, Cain was always present when the other frontrunners had either left the state (Romney especially) or were otherwise too busy or too uppity to socialize freely with “the folks.”

Cain showed he cared enough to send his very best — himself.

Instead of taking the event seriously, as those who attended clearly did, Elliott and Hunt on Saturday night dismissed the event as "mostly a popularity contest among the delegates selected by local party organizations."

It's almost enough to make you wonder if anyone at AP was actually there to see any of what went on, or even to interview people who could have relayed what was really going on.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.