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."
And the significance of this is,...nothing.
Perry is on a downhill slide from here and Bachmann is finished
Looks like the GOP is still confused. I guess FoxNews will hype Cain as the front runner now. Hmm, on second thought he's black they won't.
i believe ppl r beginning to c the real perry that many of us have seen 4 yrs here n austin. perrys kinda a good ol boy that says whatever comes to mind. i hope that other americans will c that he is not presidential material.
Herman Cain is by far the best choice for conservative american's at this point! I believe that he will bring a devastating campaign against Barack Obama, and would have an amazing position in a general election!
Brilliant move! If we have to choose between two African-American candidates I will vote for Herman Cain. That 999 plan sounds like a bold move if he can pull it off.
Straw Polls are bunch of nonesense. I am amazed it wasn't Ron Paul who won. Activists who have pure polical theory without any common sense freguent those events.
Cain has no chance with the Tea Party crowd. If he's nominated (and he won't be...the powers that be want Romney or Huntsman) the more, let's say, "nativist" segment of the Tea Party will go all Third Party on the Republicans. As of now, I see no way the GOP can beat Obama. Every time his poll numbers dip, the GOP poll numbers dip even more.
" A devestating loss for Mitt Romney"? Really?
Sorry, Perry, it is not. You worked hard to try and win. Romney didn`t even show up in Florida and came within a hair of beating you.
Ron Paul won the California straw poll by a huge margin. Why didn't he get "BREAKING NEWS" top headline coverage for that? WHY CNN?
Though i am not a Republican, i am happy that Floridans made a sensible choice. I am still Obama 2012 though.
The Crazy or the Nut – take your pick!
LMAO It's front page news when anyone else but Paul wins a straw poll... BTW Paul won the New Hampshire and the California straw polls, no front page news there. Keep up your BS CNN, the corporate media is an endangered species anyway...
Yes, and the longer Perry is in the race, the more his candidacy will suffer as people see through the smoke and mirrors and discover this emperor has no clothes.
Well there you go!
Wouldn't it be an interesting election with we end up with two black gentlemen running for President? It sure would put the Republican Conservatives and Tea Partiers on their butts spinning. It might be just what this nation needs.
No wonder satellites are falling out of the sky. When the Republican party votes for a black man in Florida that was all the signal the satellites needed to start dropping out of the sky. God forbids if he wins the nomination. Then us humans will become extint like the dinosaurs when the 30,000 pieces of space junk comes crashing down.
Mr. Cain won the straw poll so how come the story is all about Gov. Perry? Same thing over on Fox. What's the deal? Can the news outlets please cover the ideas and platform of the winner?
Floridians intrigued by $9.99 Chilean sea bass pizza plan.
Stick a fork in Perry. He's done. He can't even win against the weakest, near-unknown horse in the race.
Please, for the love of all that's good and holy, vote for slick rick so he'll leave this state. ps the Hogs got slaughtered at AL 'cause, well, they S-U-C-K.
There is no way I'll vote for Ponzi Perry.
Cain is not a major player, straw vote of not. He will not be his party's choice to run against the President. If Florida voters are watching and listening, they will understand that any Republican will do everything in their power to eradicate SS and Medicare. All of this bodes well for President Obama.
Sounds like nobody wants a religious fanatic who takes false credit for "creating jobs" in his oil rich state (that a monkey could run).
Major signal there Perry... Cain wasn't even a contender and whipped your a$$. Please go back to Texas a secede something else besides your state.