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."
Hillary Clinton won this poll in 2007 with 42% of the vote compared to Obama's 17%. It means nothing. But of course it's a big headline on CNN.
Every one of these Republican candidates trails Obama in head-to-head polling. He's got nothing to worry about.
Thank God the Right and has finally come to there senses and realize that Romney, Perry, Santorum , Paul , Gingrich, Huntsman and Bachmann are unfit to lead....Cain is the only one of this group that has the smarts and a chance of unseating Obama....woohoo our next minority President !!!
Cain and unAble. Gotta love it!
As a Republican, I'm not sure which worries me more....the stupidity of the candidates I have to choose from or the stupidity of the voters in these straw polls.
Still wanna kill Social Security Gov. Yeehaw? You're done. You're losing to this Mo-Tea-Sir black man.
A pizza guy in the White House? This will really help everyone.
Oh for God's sake people.....it's FLORIDA!! What did you expect?
We dont need another oil guy in the White House.
Kind of interesting, it sounds like if any candidate espouses a somewhat moderate leaning position, they are going to be hit hard. I don't know if I actually agree with Perry on the issue, but it seems like the candidates will have to do a careful dance, appealing to the far right if they want to win in the primaries, while not saying anything that will kill them with the moderate Americans that matter in the general election. It will be interesting to see if anyone actually succeeds to do so.
Whoever gets the most questions has the most chance to win the pole Cain is pretty good but Ron Paul is the man. Ron Paul won't win because he is only asked a couple of questions and the ones he is asked are trick ones from a biased media.
All politicians campaign rhetoric. Just ignore them. They just tell you what you want to hear.
Wow! Cain won TWICE as many votes as Perry! Hahahaha. I must give credit to the people of Florida, they see Perry for what he is!
FL is full of retired seniors, they have always been easy targets for a scam.
In state tuition for illegal immigrants is why I would never vote for Perry. The practice is unfair to citizens, legal residents and taxpayers. People inherit lots of handicaps from parents and seem to find a way to improve their lives without government help. Illegal immigrants should be happy that they are even permitted to attend college in the United States without threat of deportation, that in my eyes is "having a heart". I am sure that if I illegally went to any other country with my kids, they would not get a tuition break for college and I would not expect them to. But when you have already broken the law I guess you are morally corupt enough to expect to get away with almost anything.
Awarding in state tuition to illegal aliens is fiscally irresponsible and patently unfair.
Push your state representative to make a change.
Google this: NUMBERSUSA .
Once you are registered, go to the "action board" to send FREE faxes to your state representative.
They are all typed up and ready to go, you just need to click your mouse to send.
Forward this to everyone you know.
I am glad that Bachmann came last. She is always a distraction from day one, like Palin, who cause disunity more than anything constructive.
I can only remember her sharp, annoying choice and slogan: make ....one term president,...... make him that..... make him this.
I will not vote for Perry. He looks like over confident.
I thought all Republicans were racists who opposed President Obama because he is Black?
Can anybody say, "Texan go home!" Perry crashed and burned Thursday night and now loses the straw vote he invested lots of time and money into. Bachmann is DOA (always was) and the rest of the field will just keep on plugging. Romney just might win the GOP nomination, but he doesn't stand a chance of beating Obama.
There's a new conductor on the Crazy Train!!!
Way to go, Mr. Cain! Quite a surprise.
Whoa! he is my man at the begining.
Cain/Perry for 2012
That's significant. He may not be invincible after all. I don't think the American people are interesting in another incarnation of GW Bush. Some of us still remember where he left this country at the end of his administration as he began his comfortable retirement.