Orlando, Florida (CNN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign was dealt a worrying blow Saturday when he finished in a distant second place to businessman Herman Cain in a closely watched straw poll in Florida.
Cain won 37% of the 2,657 votes cast in the straw poll conducted at Presidency 5, a three-day convention sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida that brought thousands of party activists to Orlando.
Perry's campaign had courted Presidency 5 delegates for weeks and printed up glossy fliers that were distributed throughout the convention hall in Orlando, but the Texas governor captured just 410 votes, or 15.4% of the vote.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finished third with 14%.
He was followed by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (10.9%), Texas Rep. Ron Paul (10.4%), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (8.4%), former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (2.26%) and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (1.5%).
Perry was expected to win the straw poll as the weekend began, but his underwhelming performance at a GOP debate on Thursday night raised questions about his readiness for prime time.
GOP activists at Presidency 5 also repeatedly expressed concern with Perry's forceful support for a Texas bill that grants in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants.
In the debate, Perry said opponents of the bill don't "have a heart," a comment that rankled conservatives here.
Cain, who charmed activists with a series of red meat speeches and a smooth debate performance, was mentioned frequently as a second choice among activists who came to Orlando ready to support Perry before changing their minds.
The Perry campaign cast their disappointing finish as a resounding victory over Romney, Perry's top rival for the GOP nomination.
"It's a devastating loss for Mitt Romney, who has been campaigning for president for the last five and a half years," said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. "We have only been in this race for five and a half weeks. Mitt Romney still cannot resonate with conservative voters, especially in Florida."
Miner admitted that "we still have work to do and we are going to get better."
Florida already gave us Bush. Those old farts.....
I would never vote for this dude. An African American republican???? Who could be so stupid to follow this sellout.
FYI Im an African American.
Did the delegates confuse the names Cain and McCain? What a surprise!
Perry will never be the same again after being beat by a black man. He'll never sleep good again! Typical repug!!! Racist!!
That LAST thing Democrats want is someone like Cain or Ron Paul being the Republican nominee ... because like their positions or not, they both HAVE a well thought out position and the conviction to stand by it. Democrats NEED Republicans to nominate some spineless and shifty "used car salesman" type like Perry or Romney who will get trounced when real issues and positions start coming up.
LMAO it's front page news whenever anyone else but Paul wins a straw poll. BTW Paul won the California and New Hampshire straw polls and placed a close second in Iowa, no front news article there... Keep the illusion going CNN, the corporate media will be and endangered species in a few years anyway...
Cain's win demonstrates no matter what; Conservatives will not vote for a Mormon, no matter their qualifications.
This only illustrates how fractured the GOP really is. This primary election should be interesting!
Com'on everybody knows no black man will win the presidency for a while after president OBAMA in 2016, Cain won the straw poll to spite Rick Perry. Rick does not believe in science, global warming, Big government, SSN...but at the same time he want to be the Government(POTUS),just wanna be in the white house only to sit there and pick his teeth.
Wow. You'd think 2,657 conservatives who were extreme enough to bother attending the poll had just decided the election. :-)
Hey, if it's Obama v. Cain, will we be seeing those ultra-right wing groups like the KKK out marching in the street to save the purity of America? If the GOP nominates a black man to run against a black man, can you think of the social disaster that'll create for right wing extremists? It might cause their children to start thinking that it's okay for a black man to make something of himself and not just be a servant. We all know its a quick step from there to our angelic children being misguided into thinking LGBTs should be allowed an equal place in America.
Ron Paul is victorious in the California Republican Straw Poll last Saturday, garnering more than 44 percent of the votes. But not one mention of this anywhere. I guess if they don't report it or add a spin to it, it didn't happen
Wait a minute! I thought all conservative Republicans were racist.
You shall all soon kneel before King Perry. He shall be anointed with the blood of the donkey.
MAYBE for ONCE the people in florida are finally waking up from their coma's and paying attention