Herman Cain wins Tea Party straw poll in Illinois

Rep. Joe Walsh speaks about 'revolution' at Schaumburg event

October 3, 2011

(AP/John Raoux, File)
Herman Cain speaks to delegates at a Florida Republican party convention before a Florida straw poll in Orlando, Fla.

Updated at 9:09 a.m.

Presidential candidate Herman Cain came to Illinois this weekend to woo Tea Party activists, and left with a straw poll victory. Cain attended the Midwest Tea Party Convention in northwest suburban Schaumburg.

The Georgia businessman got the crowd at TeaCon 2011 riled up on Saturday afternoon by paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence.

"It says when any form of government becomes destructive of those ideals, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it," Cain said. "We've got some altering and some abolishing to do."

Cain's speech to the activists had few Illinois references to it. Asked later by a reporter for his thoughts on local issues like Asian carp or the O’Hare Airport expansion, he laughed.

“I'm sorry," Cain said. "That one is way out of my league. I’m not even sure what you’re talking about.”

Cain won 77 percent of the straw poll vote. He was the only presidential candidate to show up at the convention, though organizers said all the contenders were invited.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who spoke to the group in a pre-recorded message, finished a distant second.

"I am so thrilled you’re there in Schaumburg," Bachmann said in the video. "I am so sorry that I can’t be with you there today. But please note: This isn’t the year to compromise. We can’t settle for a candidate who’s compromised. We can’t settle for a candidate who’s a moderate. This is our year of all years to not fall for the mantra of ‘Anybody but Obama.’"

The event also featured a lunch-time speech on Saturday by Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a Tea Party favorite. Walsh appealed to the activists to shun candidates who see 2012 as an election, rather than – as he put it – "a revolution."

"If they don’t understand that we’re going through a revolution, turn away," Walsh said. "If they understand that we’re going through a revolution for the very soul of this country, and they’re not willing to fight, I mean fight, I mean fight against their own party, turn and walk away."

Walsh criticized Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain – even made fun of McCain’s age – and said his party’s leaders in the U.S. House, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, are “good folk” but he says they’re afraid to fight.

In his speech, Walsh did not mention by name U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, his likely GOP primary opponent. But he made it clear later to reporters that he would use that same line of criticism against Hultgren.

"I think he's been in politics too long and I think you can look at our records these past eight months as to who's fighting and who's not," Walsh said.

Walsh and Hultgren were both elected to Congress last November, but Hultgren spent a decade in the Illinois General Assembly before then.

Hultgren spokesman Andrew Flach defended his boss as a "constant conservative," and took a shot at Walsh.

"Much like Barack Obama, the congressman from the 8th District feels the best way to govern is through speeches, press releases and sound bites," Flach wrote in an email. "It's very clear that this is an ineffective method of leadership that points to a lack of experience and responsibility."

Hultgren and Walsh are expected to face each other as a result of the Democratic-controlled redistricting process in Illinois. Both of their homes were drawn into the new 14th Congressional District. Most Republican members of the state's congressional delegation - inluding Hultgren and Walsh - are fighting that map in a federal lawsuit.