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."
I assumed there would be no comments yet. Dems cannot make this about race... What are they gonna do??? Oh no.
Yep, those Reps are racist...oh, BTW...First!
what can u expect from a media outlet that totally supports and carries the water for Obama???
Did a decimal point accidentally get moved a digit to the right? 3.7% I could believe but 37% makes me wonder if accountants from the pentagon, who are used to fudging numbers, tallied the votes.
Why would conservative Republicans be rankled by being called "heartless". That is their brand and they carry it proudly on their sleeves. Any kind of fiscal policy that would help the working middle class they are against, like the payroll tax cuts, ensuring that benefits for those receiving SS and Medicare aren't cut, eliminating the Wall Street manipulation of the oil and gasoline markets, ensuring that those who benefit from the same freedoms and opportunies as the working class pay the same percentage in income taxes. They "HEART" the rich, so why be offended when they are called heartless when it comes to everyone else?
Perry is an immature bully who has no substance. Everybody seems to know it but him. The few who are voting for him are either not smart enough to hear what he is saying, or of the same cut.
It seems the media were the only ones dumb enough to ever think Perry had a chance.
Well, we all know that straw poles mean very little, as has been shown in many a race before this. Let's see how it all ends up in the long run, and not judge the winner of the race by who's in first place at the beginning of the second lap.
Even the republicans are not happy with the republicans
Show how weak the GOP field currently is. Romney is a used car salesman. Perry makes Bush look like a Rhodes Scholar. Bachmann is just crazy. Santorum has a Google problem. And Cain is just not able. The Tea Party has cheered for a Governor that likely oversaw the execution of an innocent man, believes that the only option for the uninsured is to just die, and booed someone who has more courage and honor than all of them put together simply because he is gay. Collectively they are a disgrace and individually that are unworthy of the office they seek.
I've been telling all of you for months. We have to have a black republican run. Black folks want to vote for a black person, most wouldn't even bother to vote unless a blackman is running. Just look at 08, highest turnout of black voters in history to blindly vote for the most incapable president ever, but he is black so he won.
Is it possible? Two african-americans: one labeled the "antichrist"; one named with "the mark of cain";. Vying for the US presidentcy? Only in America!
Oh well, if the political arena doesn't work out for Perry he can always become a Christian evangelist.
Haha, you know the Republicans are in trouble when a pizza guy can beat the only potential candidate that could beat Obama.
Cain may be a businessman but he isn't poisoned by political flap among the two parties Rommey and Perry might be front runners but America is tired of the same old politican
Support for illegal immigrants means Perry will not be President – because it creates incentive for illegal immigrants and the illegal activities necessarily associated with them to increase.
Perry may as well resign from the race now – it is over.
Oh Mister Freeman I must say the Tea party is not racist.
Cain is hardly a John Kennedy. For him to edge out Perry by so much even among red-meat Teapublicans says a lot about Perry. A lot means there's actually little there–even to Republicans. Bachmann's 1.5% should send her a message loud and clear: ABANDON SHIP.
Since we know a black man running against Obama doesn't have a remote chance of going anywhere, Obama will be a shoe-in. I've heard Cain speak and he's got some good points, so at least we would have some interesting debates.
Perry will not win, the only repubs with a brain are Romney and Huntsman., but there is absolutely no possibility they can win because they are both Mormons. and since the TEA PART are born againers, they would rather vote for a moron like Perry
Herman Cain is: Intelligent, logical, analytical, a great speaker, and would make a phenomenal, unpoliticized president. Go Cain!!
just kidding, it shows that americans are not racist and they vote for someone they truly believes is capable to delivering!!!!!! i am black from chicago.
See how he lies? "This is a resounding victory?" I think he now only deceives himself.
Don't mess with fla. Social security or else