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."
I thought only democrats supported african-americans. This can't be true. Republicans are all racist
Mrs. B, don't give up. Make 'em throw you out of the race, if necessary! brs
The Republican presidential contest is getting ta lot more interesting.
All we ahve is the incompetent Obama on the other side.
Hey media! perry and romney both suck. you might as well re-run mccain or bush. GO HERMAN! GO BACHMANN! anyone with some true conservative platform. WAKE UP GOP IDIOTS!!!
Where's the front page report for Ron Paul when he comes in first, like in the California and New Hampshire Straw Polls? Mr. Cain's win isn't real supprising. The two "front runners" that the media has picked aren't very conservative.
Ha! Let the internecine warfare begin :-D
Devastating blow to Romney? Who are YOU kidding? Dude, you just got SLAMMED and you are taking it as a victory that you "won" (oh yeah, let's forget that black guy Cain) by 1.4%????
Cain is going to be the O's pain..................................
Florida used to be a really beautiful state, a natural paradise. There is still much beauty despite what has been destroyed by unrestrained luxury development. There is also a large number of sensible, hard-working, respectable people in the state of Florida who would like to make the world a better place. That said, these conservative Republicans are completely out-to-lunch. I think it's hilarious that Bachman finished in 8th place.
Good!!! Perry has offered nothing but bizzaro career politician double talk. Same with Romney. Herman Cain and Ron Paul have real solutions to our countries problems while Perry and Romney fight like two spoiled children in a sand box. Glad to hear it!!!
Those straw poll means nothing....waste of time and money
Ron Paul defeated Perry in California, yet they only gave him tiny bullet-item news piece. Cain wins and it's splashed all across the front page.
It's time for the "mainstream media" to pay attention to Herman Cain. This is THE man for the job.
Ron Paul is coming! Ron Paul 2012
Herman Cain is a viable candidate. Americans should read his positions on the many issues. Practical and straight forward....isn't this what America needs?
Michele Bachmann (1.5%)
Maybe just maybe she can have her husband pray away that number.
go cain.......nc love you
Outstanding! Could it be that we have a non-career politician with a real shot at being President? I for one hope so. A Cain / Paul ticket would sweep this nation into a true era of Hope and Change.
Herman Cain received 983 of Florida's straw poll votes, why couldn't CNN list that in the article?
Cain is the Tea Party's answer, read kryptonite, to Barack Obama in 2012
I'm gettin' dizzy with all this spin.
The GOP'ers are speechless! Aww come on say something.....
The work is done it will get better,may God blessed America.Thank you.
A Herman Cain/Newt Gringrich would be unstoppable.