Businessman Herman Cain surprised many by beating Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP presidential front-runner in a Florida straw poll Saturday. The loss is another disappointing blow for the Perry campaign, coming off a shaky debate performance just two days ago.
The former Godfather's Pizza executive, who has to date been far behind the two top-tier candidates Perry and Mitt Romney, won with 37 percent of 2,657 votes that were cast, while Perry trailed with a distant 15 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney followed with 14 percent, while former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum drew 11 percent.
"Thank you to the Republican voters for this incredible honor of being named the winner of the Presidency 5 straw poll in Florida today," Cain said in a statement after the results were in.
The Perry camp shrugged off the results. "Cain won, we still have work to do," said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. While this can be seen as another stumble for Perry, more focus should be put on Romney's third-place finish. Romney has been running for president for years and is still seemingly not breaking through. "It's more of what happened to Mitt Romney. He's not going to be crowned president of the United States. He's going to have to work for it. And after five and a half years he once again got rejected in a key state in the Republican primary process," said Miner.
Perry, who was expected to finish strong, had told the more than 3,000 GOP activists who came from across the state that his rivals made a mistake by skipping the straw poll. His strident defense of in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants put him on the wrong side of the GOP's conservative base.
Other first-tier candidates hadn't actively organized for the Florida vote, either. So the results probably won't shuffle the campaign's standings and were shaping up as little more than a popularity contest among the delegates selected by local party organizations. From Florida, Perry was headed later Saturday to a gathering on Mackinac Island in Michigan. Romney, the son of a former Michigan governor, also was set to address the crowd in the state. Perry, leading in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, had needed a victory in the key test of strength in a crucial state to salve the wounds left over from a debate with his rivals on Thursday in which he struggled.