RICHMOND, Va. – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie won the first-ever Richmond, Va., Tea Party presidential straw poll on Saturday, garnering 14 percent of the 1,560 votes cast on Friday and Saturday. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin finished in a close second place with 13.5 percent of the vote and Texas Congressman Ron Paul in third with 12.5 percent.
Candidates straw poll voters could have chosen from also include Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Indiana Congressman Mike Pence. Also on the ballot were President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with fairness being the reason for their listing, event organizers told The Daily Caller.
Ex-CNN commentator Lou Dobbs keynoted the event, which, according to coordinators, had 2,800 registered attendees. Speaking at the end of the day Saturday, Dobbs addressed the crowd on the principles of the Tea Party movement and how grassroots organizers can’t give up now.
Dobbs stressed how unique he thought the Tea Party situation is – and how the movement must continue to grow and remain proactive to stay influential and make an impact on the upcoming midterm elections.
“That is a lesson both political parties will learn from you,” Dobbs said in his speech. “It is now time for you, the majority, to be heard in our nation’s capital.”
Dobbs, a proponent against illegal immigration, has come under fire over the past couple of days for reports from The Nation, a liberal publication, which claimed he had hired illegal immigrants to work at one of his companies or at his home – Dobbs addressed the accusations directly in his speech, and announced the reporter from The Nation admitted to fabricating those claims.
Dobbs joked about the topic though, even through his speech.
“I want to return to the ‘can do’ attitude – and, by the way, ‘can do’ is English, not Spanish,” Dobbs said.
Dobbs even talked about the end of his CNN career.
“I was as much of a critic of the Bush administration as I am of the Obama administration,” Dobbs said, which he added didn’t sit so well with the network heads at CNN.
Crowd favorite Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who spoke earlier in the day as part of a national policy forum, said state attorneys general have one of the most important jobs in protecting the Constitution.
“State attorneys general are the last line of defense against the federal government overstepping its bounds,” Cuccinelli said.
When Cuccinelli referenced recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, the crowd booed, which prompted a joke from the Attorney General.
“Attorney Generals usually don’t boo Supreme Court Justices,” Cuccinelli said. “But, you guys are exercising your First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression and I fully support that.”
Repealing Obamacare was a major focus of the convention, and former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator George Allen made an indirect stab at former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the Bay State’s healthcare program. Romney didn’t even place in the top five contenders in the straw poll, and “RomneyCare,” as Massachusetts’ healthcare program has been coined, may have had something to do with that.
Iowa Congressman Steve King was the most vocal of the events’ figures on repealing Obamacare – he even proposed a way to go about doing it.
First, King said, the new Congress in January must immediately pass legislation eliminating the current legislation. King said he expects Obama to veto the bill, at which point, he said House Republicans need to cut funding to the different aspects of Obamacare. He said that will lead to “showdown” in September 2011 when the next fiscal budget comes up for review.
Then, King said, Republicans and Tea Partiers need to focus on electing a president in 2012 who will take his or her inaugural oath with a veto “pen in hand.”
Paul focused much of his speech on the strength of the Tea Party movement – honing in on how he believes it’s an intellectual movement, not a political movement.
“Isn’t it great that we’re talking about the right for states to nullify bad federal laws?” Paul asked the crowd.
Another major theme of Paul’s speech to the convention was the importance of individual freedom from governmental tyranny.
“I believe governments reflect their people,” Paul told reporters before his speech Saturday.
If people are lazy, Paul said, governments become oppressive and tyrannical. If people are powerful and voice their concerns, on the other hand, he said governments back off and allow people their liberty.
Paul highlighted a mistrust of the American people from politicians in Washington, D.C., adding that many congressmen and senators think the American people are too “stupid” to handle their own problems and make their own choices. He also asked Tea Partiers to maintain civility and unification, but not force anyone else to do anything.
Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain kicked off Saturday’s events with a headlining speech – and he hinted the most of any potential 2012 GOP candidate at a run for the presidency.
After recounting his story of having survived cancer, Cain said sometimes God keeps people around for a reason they don’t know at the time.
“I might do something crazy,” Cain told the crowd of Tea Partiers in Richmond. “I might just run for president.”