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."
Go back to Texas Mr Perry!
What isn't the GOP getting? PERRY IS NOT a viable candidate in 2012. America's done w/ the stereotypical, out of touch, stuffed shirt politician. I'd vote for Obama before Perry.
Perry is finished! Cain is a Federal Reserve shill! Only 2 GOP candidates are worthy of my vote, the rest suck! Obama=Bush so that's off the table.
Ok, didn't see THIS coming. Granted, I think these straw polls are given a bit too much importance (2657 votes? I've seen more people voting on cat pictures on Icanhazcheeseburger) but this might drag out the fight a few more months and make things a bit more interesting.
As an independent right now the only GOP candidate I can see myself voting for is Huntsman, as at least with him I see signs of practicality and not an ideologue.
RIP Perry. I hope.
I'd vote for him and Michelle on a ticket!
A stinging defeat for Perry given his hard core campaigning for this straw poll. This means the hard core party members don`t think Perry has the right stuff. Cue all the talk about yet another unsatisfying candidate.
Looks like Rick Perry's habitual lieing has caught up with him.
Wow, a guy who thinks we should make Leviticus the law of the land lost to a guy that thinks a five page bill is too much to read and that we should trim it down to a paragraph.
If I was a Republican I'd be embarrassed.
Somebody that's not a Democrat or Republican in 2012! (please)
That debate killed him
Now that the truth is out – no one wants Perry not even the people from Texas
Wheres Ron Paul winning or you could be just like FOX and take down any polls saying that.
End the Corruption
you lost the Teapublican vote because of the Texas Dream Act and government injections. . .
You can pray all you want, but you won't get "reign"
God Almighty, these Republicans are even nuttier than I thought. Herman Cain? Indeed, I am more reassured than ever that Obama will be reelected. He's the only sane one who'll be running.
Only here in FL, can the CEO of a Mafia themed pizza joint can win a GOP straw poll.....
So help me Science, if this man gets elected, I will marginalize every one of his critics as a "racist".
I guess fForida is saying they are tired of slick Politicians, but they will forget about Cain, as sonn as Palin steps in. doug.
I am a liberal democrat, and I'm considering registering as a republican to vote for Romney in the primary. The rest of the GOP alternatives are a nightmares in comparison, and if Obama is going to lose, I want want someone with at least half a brain to take over.
Hahaha! As usual, Perry doesn't "lie", but he doesn't tell the story. "We beat Romney", yes you did, but you got CRUSHED you pompus arrogant jerk. When he doesn't even win the nomination, I'm going to get drunk for a month and laugh laugh laugh.
Herman – way to go. You are the man. I will vote for you in 2012. Keep the faith, we need you in the White House ASAP.
Management School 101: A's recruit other A's. B's recruit B's and C's.
GOP: C's and D's recruit D's or worse.
Herman Cain is nothing but a Black Barack Obama. He will not contend for the nomination.
Governor Stick-Your-Foot-In-Your-Mouth may be trying to spin this as upset for Romney, but the truth is he is not ready for prime time. Currently most of the people I know here in the Cornfield are still not happy with the current crop and hoping a leader comes along that can actually lead and see the end of the Obama Administration lunacy.
When does Cain`s book come out? He`s trying to hold on just long enough to cash in.
Lets see Cain win in the South and Northern states, such as WV, PA, and Ohio.