(AP) Under the radar Republican Presidential candidate and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain won an early test vote in Florida, capturing 37.1 percent of the vote at Saturday’s Presidency 5 straw poll in Orlando, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry coming in second with 15.4 percent. Mitt Romney came in third with14 percent and Rick Santorum followed with 10.88 percent. Michele Bachmann, who scored a high-profile straw vote victory in Iowa last month, finished last, with less than 2%.
“Let’s send Washington a message: We the people are still in charge of this country. Not we, the bureaucrats. Not we, the government,” Georgia businessman Herman Cain told the conference.
While all declared candidates were on the ballot, the first-tier candidates aside from Perry did not compete. Perry bought hundreds of activists’ breakfasts on the sidelines before heading to Michigan. Romney skipped and didn’t send representatives to the forum.
AP reports that the results were unlikely to shuffle the campaign’s standings. Instead, they were mostly a popularity contest among the delegates selected by local party organizations.
Earlier in the day, Texas Gov. Rick Perry worked to convince Florida Republicans that he is the strongest contender for the GOP nomination despite a shaky debate performance earlier this week that has sparked jitters about his bid. Perry’s mistakes have sparked another round of angst among Republicans about their slate of presidential candidates.
In an interview with the Associated Press Saturday after he had left Florida for a lunchtime speech in Michigan, Perry addressed speculation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie might reconsider running for president in 2012.
“I see anybody that gets in the race that believes in America and is a small government but efficient government individual, I would welcome into the race. It just strengthens the point that the Republican Party’s all about getting our country working again. Whoever that is,” Perry said of Christie. “And I’m also a big believe in these governors being freed up to be able to compete against each other. Chris Christie is a great competitor – and I’ll be up there, you know, in Jersey, looking for some businesses to move to Texas.”
Activists at the Florida test vote kept bringing Christie up as a possible contender. Merick Lewin, who owns a marketing company in Davie, Fla., said he believes it’s a two-person race – unless Christie runs.
“He’s tough. He’s strong. He could really shake this up, especially if Rick Perry implodes,” Lewin said.
Previous straw polls have predicted the GOP nominee.
Ronald Reagan won in 1979, George H.W. Bush in 1987 and Kansas Sen. Bob Dole in 1995. The Republican Party of Florida, however, has not organized the test vote in recent years.
Perry, a late entrant into the Republican primary who quickly led national polls, stumbled in recent weeks.
His defense of in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants put him on the wrong side of the GOP’s conservative base. His rivals worked to exploit his opposition to a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border and his support of a mandatory vaccine for girls against a sexually transmitted disease.