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."
Why doesn't Rick Perry just step down?! No one wants another fake elitist puppet in office.
Wait, but I though Ron Paul was the real frontrunner and the media was just covering it up thru some conspiracy? How is it he came in so far down the list, Paul supporters?
P.S. Bachmann, way to own last place and bail on the state before the polling was done! Are you gonna pray away the fail?
Cain/Paul 2012 Americans for Liberty
It is really no surprise, Perry is another Texan. We have had enough of them in the Whitehouse
Cain, of course, is the ONLY choice the Repubs have for winning against Obama.
Just to be on the safe side, Cain should make sure his own birth certificate is ready.
Perry...for whom the bell tolls. Does he think America is ready for aNOTHER dumb Texan who talks a lot but has nothing in the least to say...???
Perry lost a lot of ground with his views on immigration – he's just not radical enough for t-party tastes. This is good news for Obama in a general election where radicalism loses every time.
How about that? The truth about Perry is starting to come out. A legal resident of the USA can't get in state tuition, but an illegal can. It's disgusting. This is just a small part of Perry's corruption. He has cost Texans hundreds of thousands of dollars paying the rent on his mansion and his 24 hour chefs. He's been doing this for years. Thousands of teachers lost their jobs because he wouldn't use taxpayer money to improve education in Tx., but he gave hundreds of thousands to cronies for new businesses. He's a crook.
All this poll shows is that they love pizza more.
People won't vote for 'Scary' Perry. We'll see how Cain does once the public learns more about him.
Cain for President!
Good for Cain. Perry is dangerous for this country.
GOP can't coagulate behind one candidate because they're all so polarizing and unqualified. I think Obama has already won his second term. It's too bad Mitch Daniels didn't run or that someone as level headed as Jon Huntsman doesn't have a chance in hell. The United States really needs a leader today and I don't care if they are Republican or Democrat. The activists and loud-mouthed idiots need to go.
Perry is a complete dunce. But I doubt that will be much of a factor in getting the GOP nomination. The last smart candidate for the GOP was Nixon, and he used his intelligence for corruption and illegal activities.
He handed out free slices of pizza, of course he wins...
It doesn't matter because cain or perry don't stand a chance in the election in particular perry with his stance on social security
Awesome! And, great picture, CNN! Thanks for the laugh!!
President Obama probably is looking at this bunch of buffoons and laughing, while mapping out his 2nd term.
this is a prime example why the repub candidataes are all social rejects.
Wait I thought Republicans were supposed to be racist? That's why the Republican National Committee Chairman was black before Obama was even running for President right? Also why the only black on the Supreme Court is a Republican? Gee hasn't the liberal media lied again.
More proof Florida should be sawed off and set adrift: rescuing only the gators.
This proves that there is no Republican front runner. That all sound like wanna-bees. Reagan has to be spinning in his grave. Not a one can hold a candle to him. Reagan knew how to NEGOTIATE and COMPROMISE to get done what was needed. He signed no pledges & led with his heart as well as his head.
These Bozos will guarantee Obama four more years. I want my Republican Party back from the tea-baggers!
how come when Ron Paul wins straw polls, like the other day in California the media dosnt say a word???????
Perry is an idiot