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Trailing GOP hopefuls take on front-runners

Trailing GOP hopefuls take on front-runners

Huntsman stresses need for broad appeal; Bachmann holds hard line; Santorum cites his record of victory.

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ORLANDO, Fla. • As they toil in the shadow of the front-runners, the other Republican presidential candidates are offering starkly different visions of how the party might win the White House without Mitt Romney or Rick Perry.

In a series of speeches to activists and social conservatives in Florida, the rest-of-the-pack candidates have urged various choices: pick someone who is electable; someone who is a true believer; or someone who somehow is both.

Jon Huntsman Jr., whose candidacy has languished near the bottom of the pack in the polls for weeks, made his most raw and unfiltered argument yet that electability should be the primary criterion for Republican voters.

In remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Huntsman defended his conservative credentials in the areas of abortion, taxes, government spending and job creation. But he argued that his willingness to agree with Democrats on climate change, civil unions and evolution made him the most realistic choice to win the Oval Office.

"To win in 2012 and beyond we must appeal to the Tea Party and conservative Republicans," he said. The party, he said, must also win "moderates, independents, and yes, conservative Democrats."

Rep. Michele Bachmann's appeal at the event was simple: Do not settle for anything less than the kind of conservative you want.

"If there was any election when we conservatives don't settle, it's this election," Bachmann argued. "This is the election where we can have it all."

In her appearance Friday morning, Bachmann focused on the support that she has traditionally received from social conservatives, pleading with the activists in the ballroom to pick a nominee who is a true Tea Party believer.

Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, is billing himself as the best of both worlds: a staunch conservative who has proved himself able to win elections in a Democratic-leaning state.

With renewed vigor, Santorum is reminding voters that his career was notable for victories in heavily Democratic areas that he was never expected to win.

Cain wins straw poll • Florida Republicans threatened to shake up the Republican presidential race Saturday, giving business executive Herman Cain a solid win in a straw poll and delivering a sharp rebuke to front-runner Rick Perry.

Cain took 37.1 percent of the straw poll votes, cast by 2,657 Republicans at a state party gathering in Orlando. Perry, the Texas governor who had vowed to compete for the symbolic victory in a critical state, trailed far behind with 15.4 percent.

Mitt Romney finished third, with 14 percent, followed by Rick Santorum 10.9 percent, Ron Paul 10.4 percent, Newt Gingrich 8.4 percent, Jon Huntsman 2.3 percent and Michele Bachmann 1.5 percent.

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