The Florida Straw Poll: Get Excited

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 24: People hold campaign signs during the Republican Party’s Florida Presidency 5 convention at the Orange County Convention Center on September 24, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. After last night’s televised debate the GOP presidential candidates will participate in a straw poll today during the conference. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Here are the basics about the Florida straw poll.

- Not everyone is participating. Mitt Romney, who spent heavy on straw polls in 2007, has eschewed every one this time. Neither he, nor Michele Bachmann, nor Gary Johnson, will appear on the ballot, and none of them will have a surrogate speak to delegates.

- The ballot: Romney, Bachmann, Perry, Paul, Cain, Santorum, Gingrich, Huntsman. This was not decided based on who showed up. It was decided based on polling.

- Paul, Huntsman, and Perry are campaigning in other states and have dispatched surrogates to speak to delegates.

- My scan of the hall reveals a lot of Perry stickers, a lot of Huntsman stickers, some visible but not overwhelming support for Ron Paul, and a lot of grassrootsy Herman Cain buttons. I don’t see much Gingrich or Huntsman flair.

- The voting wil occur after candidates and surrogates talk, at 4:30. It’s set to end at 5:30.

Who does this serve? Well, hold on a few hours, and I’ll tell you. But if you wanted to devise a way to boost Herman Cain and Rick Santorum, you’d devise this. Perry just spend two and a half days in Florida, giving two setpiece speeches, participating in a debate, and holding a breakfast for delegates. He sent out direct mail to boost his campaign. And yet the final image voters get before they choose will be some schmuck subbing for Perry, who’s now in Michigan.

The shadows of vultures have been all over the Perry campaign since the debate. What happens if he doesn’t win the straw poll? One more data point for the stories about a Perry collapse, just days after he was the de facto Republican frontrunner.