In a landslide victory, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain won a Florida straw poll Saturday, with 37.1 percent of the vote. Presumed frontrunner Rick Perry earned just 15 percent, despite an extensive effort to court voters in the state. The defeat was largely a reflection of the Texas governor’s disappointing performance during the Sept. 22 Republican presidential debate in Orlando. Mitt Romney, who did not actively compete for support in the poll, also trailed Cain with 14 percent.
“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," Cain said in a statement after the results were announced.
Rick Santorum garnered 11 percent; Ron Paul, 10 percent; Newt Gingrich, eight percent; and Jon Huntsman, two percent. Michele Bachmann, who won a high-profile straw poll in Iowa last week, finished with less than two percent of the vote.
According to The Associated Press, previous Florida straw polls have predicted the Republican nominee, including Ronald Reagan in 1979, George H.W. Bush in 1987 and Kansas Sen. Bob Dole in 1995. It is very unlikely that that will be the case with Cain, whose campaign is underfunded and lacks the organizational structure of his competitors’ operations.
Perry issued a statement congratulating Cain on his win. Spokesman Mark Minor acknowledged that Perry’s lackluster debate performance impacted the straw poll results. In addition, conservatives do not cotton to his policy that allows the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Texas’ public universities. But his spokesman said that Perry’s campaign strategy would not change, AP reports.
"He's the commander in chief, not the debater in chief," Miner said.
(Photo: AP Photo/Joe Burbank, Pool)