Cain, a Georgia businessman whose compelling personal story - he grew up poor and black and beat cancer - and fiery rhetoric about the need to simplify the tax code and jump-start the economy struck a chord with Republican activists here, won 37 percent of the 2,657 votes cast. Perry, who made a late but spirited effort in the state, got 15 percent. Romney, who had announced earlier he is not competing in straw polls, came in third with 14 percent of the vote.
Trailing the top three: Sen. Rick Santorum, 11 percent; Rep. Ron Paul, 10 percent; Newt Gingrich, 8 percent; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, 2 percent and Michele Bachmann, 1 percent.
ORLANDO - Herman Cain was the clear winner Saturday of a straw poll of Republican activists in this battleground state, amassing more votes that the frontrunners for the presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, combined.
The mock election run by the state party capped a three-day convention where Cain and former Santorum appeared to pick up new supporters as the front-runners stagnated or stumbled. Bachmann, Romney and Huntsman had previously announced they would not be campaigning for straw poll votes, though their names appeared on the ballot.
Only Cain, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul stayed to make closing arguments to the attendees on Saturday afternoon. Bachmann and Romney left Friday evening after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and Perry left early Saturday morning after hosting a breakfast for the delegates.
Before the voting commenced, both Romney and Perry headed to the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference in Mackinac Island, Mich., where that state's Republican party is also holding a convention and straw poll this weekend. The Michigan results, tabulated by National Journal's Hotline, will be announced Sunday morning in Hotline On Call.
This is the first time in more than a decade that Florida Republicans have held a straw poll, but in the past, the contest has accurately predicted the winners of the GOP presidential nomination: Delegates voted for Ronald Reagan in 1979, George H.W. Bush in 1987 and Bob Dole in 1995.
In a recent interview with Fox News, Florida Gov. Rick Scott predicted Republicans in his state would repeat that performance. "I believe whoever wins this straw poll on Saturday will be the Republican nominee and I believe the Republican nominee will be the next president," he said.