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."
How can Perry, who was the only candidate actively courting the straw poll participants finish with 15 percent and hold it over Romney as a huge upset when he got 14 percent and wasnt even participating in the straw poll. Another bad move by Perry. If republicans want the White House they need to forget about this candidate and focus on a candidate that Independents and conservative democrats can vote for.
wow the train wreck that is the GOP in america chuggs onward! So pathetic. So many freakin stupid people
president obama has done nothing to get this country moving again the econmy is a miss jobs are going out of the us if perry can run the state of texas good he will make one hell of a president and trun this country around its not about party or sides its about getting our country moving again thats what it is all about
I thought Republicans and Tea Parties were racist? . . .
Michele Bachmann 1.5% should have gotten the message, now she can sit down and shut-up, she sank her own ship with her mouth.
Pay no attention to this, Republicans. Perry is a GREAT candidate! Totally able to win a national election. Make sure to vote for him in the primaries!
Cain has had my vote from the beginning.
He would be the MOST formidable challenger to Obama.
If he picked senator Rubio as VP, it would be a shoe-in.
Nevada, Arizona, new Mexico, and Colorado, and Florida, all would be in their column.
Great job Mr Cain!
It's like a reality show featuring the bickering among the Seven Dwarves.
The Republican Party has become a cult. Rick Perry, an unbelievably stupid man, was front-runner a few days ago because he seemed to enthusiastically adhere to the dogma of the cult. But he has "deviated," and is being "purged."
I applaud him for his position on in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants. He (and I) believe that it is wrong to punish or deprive people of benefits for something that they are not responsible for. In the end, Texas will be stronger for this policy.
A lot of people have counted Sarah Palin out. I predict that she will win the Republican nomination, regardless of her stupefying ignorance, incoherence, vindictiveness (etc.). Why? There is zero possibility that she will "deviate," and, in a cult, that is the only thing that really matters.
Well, well, well... how are you going to spin this? I thought all Tea Party people were red-neck, racists.
Maybe its the other way around. Maybe you are anti-conservative bigots who can't see past your socialist agenda.
If a black man's not a liberal, he's not really black. Right?
And if a woman's not a liberal she's a empty headed trailer trash. Right
PALIN! PALIN! PALIN!!
Herman Cain 2012!
I think this just goes to show how volatile the GOP playing field really is. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but these early polls have little predictive value on what will actually happen months before the actual election. So, it appears a lot of people have a lot of time to waste by trying to make decisions now that won't have any real impact on the actual election.
I give the guy who took these pictures a thumbs up.
Perry came into this debate/straw poll as the #1 contender, and left as a poor second...."Devasting loss for ROMNEY"?
Real, genuine Texas "straight talk" Big Guy!
That was good that perry got second place in stady of romney who was so active. In florida.
As a white conservative i would vote for Herman Cain at this time over the perry and Romney.
Hey.... Visit Israel, Say positive things about Israel, and AIPAC will put its machine in gear for you. Add some retired persons from New York and guess what.
Cain is Able.
Who'd vote for either of these clowns?
Have you ever seen a poor Mormon? Romney for President
Why isn't anyone posting comments?
SO one unelectable candidate prevailed over another unelectable candidate
I like the Obama ads to the right. I've never seen one for a GOP candidate.
That's what I call fair representation.
37% is third of the vote and next in line lick Rick got 15.4%?
Assuming this was not a paid for voting forum like Iowa where the candidate bused them in and paid admission, this is impressive for Cain.
I also must wonder how things are in tea bagger land tonight, it now seems a very real possibility that the nominee to "take back their WH" will be a black man!