Atlanta businessman Herman Cain won the Florida straw poll Saturday, defeating second-place Rick Perry after the Texas governor spoke to a group of activists with a breakfast speech.
Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, came in first with 37.1 percent of the 2,657 votes cast by GOP delegates at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Perry came in a distant second at 15.4 percent.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney followed with 14 percent while former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum drew 11 percent. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul finished with 10.5 percent, former Speaker Newt Gingrich finished with 8.5 percent, while former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman finished with 2 percent. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa straw poll in August, finished with just 1 percent of the vote, Fox News reported.
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. This is a sign of our growing momentum and my candidacy that cannot be ignored. I will continue to share my message of 'common sense solutions' across this country and look forward to spending more time in Florida, a critical state for both the nomination and the general election.
Perry, who on Thursday delivered a debate performance that was widely panned, congratulated Cain on his win, while trying to make it look like it was an even bigger loss for Romney.
I want to congratulate Herman Cain on his victory today, the Texas governor said in a statement. Floridians and voters nationally want a candidate who is clear on the issues and talks honestly about the future, not someone who takes multiple sides of an issue and changes views every election season. Today's vote demonstrates that Floridians are energized and ready to help get America working again.
Perry spokesman Mark Miner told ABC News that Romney's third-place finish was very devastating to his campaign.
He's been running for president for five and a half years and he comes in third place today. Whether it's his inconsistency or his liberal positions, the people of Florida continue to react to him every year he runs for president, Miner said. He's expecting to be crowned president without the effort and today showed he's not just going to be crowned president of the United States. You have to work for it.
Perry also said skipping the straw poll was a blunder; instead, his campaign bought breakfast for hundreds of the party faithful assembled for a three-day conference and debate.
I think that's a big mistake. I think it's very important, Perry said, citing its history.
Previous straw polls have predicted the GOP nominee, Fox News reported. Ronald Reagan won in 1979, George H.W. Bush in 1987 and Kansas Sen. Bob Dole in 1995.