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."
Way to go, Cain. Pack your luggage for home Michele.
I guess we have a clear front-runner for the republican nomination...LOL!
Did Rick Perry play the son of Buford T. Justice "Junior" in the movie "Smokey and the Bandit?
Straw poll means nothing. People like Bachmann, Paul, and Cain win them.
Now that is funny. Cain burns Perry. ROFLMAO
Where was the Breaking News when Ron Paul won the New Hampshire and California straw polls?
The first sign that Perry cannot win...anything.
Is Rick Perry out of his mind? Reward illegal immigrants with in state college tuitions? This man really is an idiot.
YES!!!! Perry is a loser
ALLRIGHT. Guess you've gotta give those old farts in Florida credit for getting it right
I think Perry is just another pretty boy (or used to be lol), but straw polls are intended to make the front runner look in peril, so the troops will muster!
This just in!
Straw polls are meaningless!
Doesn't matter which of these two are front runners in straw polls, as neither is competent enough to be president. I watched some of their debating... and it was like watching live action FUNDIES SAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS.
IS Rick Perry out of his mind? Reward illegal immigrants with in state college tuitions? This man really is a brainless idiot.
This means absolutely nothing. There is no point in even posting this story, let alone calling it breaking news.
Good. I hope the American people give cain a chance. I would love him over all candidates. Talk about job creator. Would rather see him than perry, any day. We need a real american in office, not barack the islamist.
Clown car explosion!
WONDER WHY.............. when Ron Paul won California ..." Straw Poll" ............. last week nothing was posted about his win. ........... Wonder WHY?
The election is a farce. Vote for a different head on the same beast. REVOLUTION!
This publicly praying Christian conservative liar from Texas lost the Florida straw vote because of his very very poor showing in the last debate. He was revealed in the last debate as a person who cannot win the national election. This is good for America. GO ROMNEY GO!!!!
2011 Straw Polls = Schizophrenia
Herman Cain? Even the GOP must realize it's a joke now, right?
im so happy for Mr. Cain!!! WAY TO GO!!
Herman Cain...yeah right! Give me a break. It'll never happen for the Moors in conservatism black tea. Right wingers tea will never drink from that cup. They also will never openly say it. It's just a matter of princible on their part that Cain also knows and realize just like Micheal Steele lol.
C'mon Man! Obama is ripe to be beatin' and this is what the GOP offers! Hahahahahhahhahha