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 Herman!!! The hell with the phony establishment RHINO'S... Time to kick some Obama Ass!!!
Must be a misprint. Everyone knows Rrepublicans are racists because they want Obama out of office. lol
sounds like sour grapes, wouldnt it be funny if we had a 2nd black prez? & he was a republican?
I live in Houston and Perry is worst Governor in Texas history. By the way I'm a Tea Party proud Republican. If you want to vote for a loser vote Perry. If you want a great candidate vote Bachman who isn't bad to look at and she has a gay looking husband.
Maybe the American people are finally starting to open there eyes, old slick Rick does'nt stand a chance!!!!!! OBAMA 2012
I like Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. I also like Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. I do believe people are getting tired of the typical politician. Mr. Cain is a businessman which is something new and refreshing. Congratulations, Mr. Cain.
That Herman Cain is one smart old geezer.
The population of Florida is 18.5 million. 2,657 is .014% of 18.5 million. The election is in another 14 months. Wouldn't CNN rather report news instead of this silliness?
Would be funny if cain becomes president and we pull the same race card.
ouch michele bachmann last place...
Congratulations to the pizza guy!
Straw Polls are bunch of nonesense. I amazed it wasn't Ron Paul who won. Activities who have pure polical theory without any common sense freguent those events.
Sorry, that's .0014%.
Herman Cain? Lol.
Hahahaha. Why are you crazy Republicans not following your boy wonder? What happened to your tea bagger base? Are the Republican voters finally figuring out that they are voting against their own self-interest by following these clowns?
Cain is fantastic.
Poor Ricky! Go awaaaaay!
The question is, how can you have a winner when both candidates are complete losers.
Rick Perry is a total nonsense to this nation, I don't know that Pizza-Man.....o.k, Perry is an "IDIOT".
Cain deserves a shot. He is a strong candidate
Congrats Herman Cain. Now, that's what I'm talking about.
Actually, I do have a little comment: Who cares about straw polls or initial primary results. Look how well everything turned out for Howard Dean.
Folks, calm down this is the silliest poll ever. It was not open to the general public.
To vote in the Florida straw poll you have to be a delegate.
To be a delegate you have to:
1. register six months ago.
2. You must then be chosen by a lottery. [wait...what? ]
3. If chosen Then you pay $175 dollars and you are a delegate and then you can vote. [This looks like a serious 'good 'ol boys' club and hardly a true representation of an entire state. I bet they play this one up more than the California one]
Let's see if Republicans in west virginia, and Mississippi, and Texas, and Alabama throw their support behind Herman Cain for the nomination. That'll be the day.