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 find it hard to belive any one who lives in tx would vote for rick perry for any office
Good for Cain. Let's not count anyone out yet!
Looks like to senior citizens in Florida have absolutely lost their their demented minds! Or, maybe they mistakenly believed Mr. Cain was a nice Depends salesman.
I guess Florida wasn't fooled by Slick Perry.
So, the Republicans have ripped a page from the Democrat's play book and have formed a circular firing squad.
Cain can win in Florida, but he can't win in any other state because is he black and (somewhat) moderate and won't win Tea Party Support.
Romney can win in the West and in the North East, but the base won't follow him because of his history in Massachusetts and that he is a Mormon.
Perry will win only in Tea Party states and no independant is going to vote for him
Bachmann won't win the vote of anyone who can read.
Would rather have bill back but not realistic
Oh my God! Not Herman Cain He is just as bad about Government as Perry is.
Well that puts the cat amongst the pigeons. I think that Bachmann being last with 1.5% is also telling.
Mr. Cain was much more relaxed and comfortable than he has been in previous debates. His personal experience with being a cancer survivor touched many people.
Rick Perry is a Winner.
Go Herman Cain ! The Simi Valley, CA Tea Party Republicans are behind you.
republicans for cornhukers. go huskers
WOW!!! That's HUGE
Wow, that's gotta hurt.
Karl Rove was right. Perry's comments about Social Security were toxic. Duh! Guess which state *might* care about SS?
You guessed it Florida. Good job Perry.
Some of the other canidates should ask rick perry about how much money the tax payers in tx had to pay for him to stay in a luxury hotel sweet while the govenors mansion was severely damaged by fire
I just wanted to post another comment, to keep my other comment company, whilst it is awaiting modration. doug.
Wow! Cain won almost 1,000 votes. An admirable feat.
we need to get the fncking politicians out of office and put some hard core business men in there.
It is the "9-9-9 plan" that has done it. Nine candidates with nine "factually incorrect" comments each over (what seems like) 9 debates would leave any good conservative dizzy and vote for a wingnut such as Herman Cain. But if the others start taking him seriously and remind him that Chi-le has a FEDERAL mandate for social security (tax of up to 20% of wages) as well as a FEDERAL mandate for health care (7% of income), as well as a FEDERAL income tax of up to 40% of wages, and a 19% VAT. Capital gains taxed the same as wages.
And this is from voters who voted for one President and then stated they didn't understand a simple ballot. Wow, somehow I doubt Gov Perry is too concerned.
Perry is washed up.
So it was a huge loss for Perry, but not for Romney who finished 3rd? CNN is such biased crap
I would say this portends good things, but first, it was less than 3000 GOP die-hards. Second, they voted for Herman Cain, so how smart can they be?