ORLANDO -- From the bottom of the polls to the top of the pack, businessman Herman Cain won a surprise victory at the Republican Party of Florida’s nationally watched presidential straw poll Saturday in a sign that frontrunner Rick Perry is in deep trouble.
Cain’s landslide victory, with 37 percent of the vote, exceeded the combined total for Perry and Mitt Romney, who only garnered 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
But it was a particularly stinging defeat for Perry, the frontrunner in Florida and national polls. He had wooed the nearly 3,000 party faithful with fliers before the weekend and a free breakfast Saturday.
"Folks, this is what you call momentum," Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, said in a video message from his campaign bus. "The Herman Cain train is picking up steam."
The vote also showed how soft Republican support is for Mitt Romney, who came in third with 14 percent. Unlike Perry, though, he avoided schmoozing the voters.
The straw poll is a mock election and doesn’t necessarily reflect the sentiment of the voters at large. In past years, it has predicted the party’s national nominee, but that streak could be in jeopardy because even some Cain voters doubted that he could ultimately win. Still, the vote is a major indication of how badly damaged Perry was by a poor debate performance Thursday when he fumbled answers and failed to give specifics.....
Ana Navarro, of Miami-Dade and an advisor to Jon Huntsman, said Perry is more show than substance.
“Rick Perry is a Texas stud, a real macho-man who looks great in cowboy hat and boots and was supposed to come galloping on his stallion to rescue Republicans and lead us to the promise land,” said Navarro, an advisor to Huntsman’s campaign. “But it’s become increasingly clear he can’t perform. He has electile dysfunction.”