Former Godfather's Pizza executive Herman Cain beat Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP presidential frontrunner, in the Florida Republican straw poll Saturday.
Perry has been widely criticized over his performance Thursday in a GOP debate co-sponsored by Google and Fox News, with many of the questions coming from YouTube videos.
Cain, considered far behind Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, according to Reuters, won the Florida straw poll — a nonbinding popularity poll significant only in terms of showing a candidate's strength in the state — with 37 percent of 2,657 votes cast.
Perry trailed with 15 percent and Romney followed with 14 percent. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum drew 11 percent.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul finished with 10.5 percent, while former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman finished with 2 percent, Fox News reports. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa straw poll in August, finished with just 1 percent of the vote.
NBC cited Republicans attending Presidency 5 — the three-day event concluded with the straw poll — expressing concern that "sniping between the front-runners had opened opportunities for the trailing candidates."
Reuters reports that Michael Williams, a former Texas Railroad Commissioner and current congressional candidate, had tried to reassure delegates over Perry's debate performance.
"We are not electing a debater-in-chief," Williams said to applause from the crowd. "We are electing a commander-in-chief."
Perry spokesman Mark Miner, meanwhile, reportedly said: "Cain won, we still have work to do. It's his day. The conservative message won today. We've been in this race for five weeks. We're going to continue campaigning hard."
Fox quoted Cain as saying:
"Thank you to the Republican voters for this incredible honor of being named the winner of the Presidency 5 straw poll in Florida today. 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."