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."
This tells me not only that there is no leader in the GOP, but the electorate doesn't know who, or what they want either.
Bachmann was big at first, now she get 1.5%?
Perry was big for the last month, not Cain beats him by more than 2 to 1 in a major swing state?
This is GREAT news for Obama
Gotta love it!
Perry go home and make fool of Texas. Let the people who knows what they are doing take the position. Either way
none of you are going to beat Obama.
I am a Canadian. The GOP – Tea Party shenanigans are unbelievable. Would be funny, if not so terribly destructive.
When Big Businees rules as it does, there is no place or help for ordinary people, it seems.
Our neo-con government here wants to go down the same road, too. For example, Big Oil is defended & supported, no matter what they do.
Perry wants to gut the EPA so his oil friends can wreak havoc on our most pristine lands and waters. His claim is
jobs, jobs, jobs. We've been down this road before and have always gotten bent over for doing it.
Perry will do one thing well if elected ... he'll take care of his wealthy friends on your back!
I love it what happened in Florida not because Cain won but the whole GOP presidential Comptetiors are clawn indicating of the same feather blowed to Florida Wetland
There are no sane people left in the Republican party.
Been following Herman for a while. He makes a lot of sense.
Its simqle and comon sence.wealth pays bills poverty cant.stop cutting what little poor elderly and dissable have.even a tenth grade drop out could figure it out. Trim the fat not the scrap thoes people live on.
The GOP needs Sarah!!!
I think Florida Republicans want to have their own black man as nominee!
Where was the straw poll conducted. Some counties in Florida are strictly Democratic and African American. So nothing new here. Come on CNN quite trying to undermine a bonafide canidate.
Weren't people saying just yesterday this was a 2-man race between Romney and Perry? Well now meet the third man in this race. Let's just hope his campaign doesn't implode under the pressure of winning like Bachman's did.
Perry can only do well in the bible belt and to that effect he has already made it clear that if problems occur, or if he is not sure what the answer is, he can count on god to inspire him. May as well elect an Iranian mullah.
Perry not insane enough for the GOP?
So the Great Herman Cain Delusion continues unabated. What a moron.
This is getting curiouser and curiouser.
Once again proving the complete uselessness of straw polls.
2600+ votes are hardly predictive of much of anything except that the True Believers in the GOP (pro-life but big on capital punishment, anti-gay even if they are Marines, "let 'em die" if they have no health insurance, Obama was born in Kenya, evolution is "only" a theory etc) are demonstrably ignorant of what American really stands for. Who cares how these people vote in a straw poll!
Just so that I can understand... Please someone help me understand. IF Herman Cain (or any other candidate)wins a straw poll Its at the top of the frong page, BUT when Ron Paul won the California Straw Poll, I didn't even see it on the CNN main page website until a day and a half later, AND the emphazis is always placed that Straw Polls don't mean much when Ron Paul wins. This absolutely blows my mind!?
Well, well, well. This proves how WRONG the Liberals and Democrcrats are by claiming the GOP is racist and pushing a white agenda.
I love the idea of a successful business person being in charge of the government. It needs to run more like a business, focusing on initiatives that have a return on investment.
I always think of the song, send in the clowns, when Rick Perry takes the stage.
This goes to show how insane Florida is. Not because of Cain, but because Santorum came in 4th. He should of been last.