Herman Cain pulled off an upset win over Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Presidency 5 Straw Poll in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, gaining 37 percent of the 2,657 votes after wooing Florida Republican delegates with a series of strong speeches at CPAC and P5.
“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 stumbled through parts of Thursday’s debate, placed second, beating Mitt Romney by one and a half percent. They were followed by Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Michele Bachmann.
Cain’s Common Sense Solutions campaign was able to strike a chord with Florida Republicans, promoting his 9-9-9 economic recovery plan. The plan calls for a 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent individual flat tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax that he says will create $430 billion in revenue and 6 million jobs.
Perry issued a statement that was less an acknowledgment of Cain’s victory that it was a swipe at Romney.
“I want to congratulate Herman Cain on his victory today,” Perry 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.”
The two campaigns were quick to overlook Cain’s first place finish and turn the results into an opportunity to go on the attack.
Senior Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom took to Twitter shortly after the Straw Poll results were announced and jabbed at Perry for his distant second-place finish, despite pressing all week for a win.
“Words that Rick Perry probably wants to take back, from this morning’s breakfast: ‘I have all my hopes on Florida,’” Fehrnstrom wrote on Twitter.
In a follow up interview with ABC News, Perry spokesman Mark Miner called Romney’s third place finish “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.”
The Perry campaign made a strong push for a win in the P5 Straw Poll, sending mailers to delegates the week before, beefing up a leadership team with high-profile Florida state legislators and courting delegates at a breakfast reception Saturday morning. Perry made personal appeals throughout the weekend to Floridians, saying it was a “mistake” for candidates to ignore the importance of the poll.
Some suggest Perry’s missteps in the debate and position on immigration may have hurt him among the party faithful in Florida.