Ecstatic off a Florida straw poll victory that is sure to elevate his visibility, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain said Sunday that the GOP establishment better start paying attention because he's getting respect from voters.
"The takeaway from Florida, that we took away, is that number one, the citizens movement is more powerful than the establishment wants to give me credit for. So yes, they keep treating me like the Rodney Dangerfield of this primary contest," Cain told Fox News.
"The voters, the people out in the field are saying we want to send a message to Washington, D.C. The establishment is not going to make this call, the people are going to make the call and that's what you saw in the Florida straw poll yesterday," he said.
Cain won the straw poll decisively on Saturday, garnering 37 percent of the 2,657 votes cast. Far behind was Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 15. 4 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 14 percent. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum came in fourth with 10.88 percent.
The results were a stunner to many since Cain is out-funded and doesn't have the same name recognition as other candidates like Perry, who also spent time and money on securing a strong showing at the event.
Romney had vowed before the primary season to sit out straw polls but the former Godfather's Pizza CEO has also invested his time in Florida. The winner of the straw poll wins the Florida GOP endorsement ahead of the primary, the date of which is still being disputed.
Cain also performed above expectations in Thursday's Fox News-Google debate. But even after the victory, Cain says he is still struggling to get some respect from party insiders. In response to the results, frontrunner Perry issued a statement focusing on Romney, his top rival. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who had suggested earlier that the winner of the poll would be the party nominee in 2012, backpedaled from his earlier statements.
"Congratulations to Herman Cain for his victory. Today's results reinforce the crucial role Florida's primary will play in the selection of our nominee and show that no candidate can take Florida for granted," Scott said in a statement after announcing the winner at CPAC-Florida. "I believe that as we saw in 2010, a challenging primary between our Republican candidates will serve our party, state and nation well in preparing to defeat President Obama in 2012."
Undeterred, Cain said his message is resonating because he's offering solutions rather than "just talking the problem." He added that the Florida straw poll is a better indicator of a contender's standing because it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of Iowa's Ames poll in August, where the candidates heavily court voters. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won that vote.
"Look, the Iowa straw poll you can stack the deck, you can practically buy that. Several people tried to do it and now you see what happened. With all due respect to Representative Michele Bachmann, but her star has fallen because it was temporary. The difference is in Florida, these were delegates that were making the call, they were making the call based on who they saw with the most substance in that message," he said.
Cain added that once he is more recognized by the public, voters and the media will look more closely at his candidacy.
"Now they're going to have to talk about Herman Cain, as my name ID goes up. They are going to compare Cain versus more of the same. Cain versus more of the same is what's coming through. And that's what you saw in Florida. They prefer Cain and not more of the same," he said.
And if "Cain versus more of the same" doesn't fly, Cain said he's going to borrow from the season opener of "Saturday Night Live," in which comedian Kenan Thompson played Cain's character in a mock debate and suggested that Cain's pizza mogul background will serve him well as a presidential contender.
"When you ask for it, pizza will be there in 10 minutes," Thompson said trying to adopt Cain's Georgia-drawn cadence. "If you order it, pizza will come, pizza will come, oh, pizza will most definitely come. And if you vote for me, America, I promise you that I will deliver."
"I think that's great," Cain said, laughing. "I'm going to use that in my next debate. 'If you vote for me America, I will deliver.' That's what people are hearing."