Gov. Rick Perry placed a distant second in the Denver Straw Poll this weekend, a contest that GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain easily won after a rousing speech and a direct plea for support Sunday.
"Didn't I tell you that the people were going to select the next nominee?" Cain said after the results were announced. "You all have really made me feel good today. ... We're not done yet!"
Perry didn’t ask that his name be put into the nonbinding straw poll, which serves as a test of strength among western Republicans. But organizers of the Western Conservative Summit put both declared and undeclared candidates into the mix. Cain, the former chairman and CEO of Godfather's Pizza, won with 48 percent of the conference participants, far ahead of the others.
Perry got 13 percent, polling higher than declared candidate Rick Santorum, who got 10 percent. The former Pennsylvania senator had sharply criticized the Texas governor’s stand on gay marriage during the conference.
Perry, who drew a huge crowd at a book-signing event before he spoke on Friday, also outperformed both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, considered the front-runner in the Republican presidential contest so far, and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who has emerged as a strong contender in her native Iowa.
Romney tied Santorum at 10 percent, while Bachmann received 9 percent.
The far more prominent Iowa Straw Poll will be held on Aug. 13, but Perry's name won't be on that ballot. Some of his supporters are pushing a write-in campaign there on behalf of the governor.
Perry did not seem to wow the audience in Denver as he has in many of his past appearances before conservative audiences. A Denver Post article noted that some conference participants grumbled about the “brevity and predictability” of Perry’s address Friday night. Both Santorum and Cain took questions during their appearances. Perry did not. The Durango Herald had a more positive take, saying that Perry "got an enthusiastic response from the crowd," particularly when he was beating up on Barack Obama. The newpaper said Perry got a better reaction than Santorum.
Perry had swooped into Colorado for a few hours Friday to sign books and speak at the conference. Dozens of conservative activists snapped up copies of his Washington-bashing book, Fed Up!, and then stood in line to get them signed by the Texas governor.
Perry is moving ever closer to a formal bid for the White House. In an interview with The Associated Press over the weekend — datelined from early primary state South Carolina — he said he is getting "comfortable in my heart and calm in my soul" about a run for president.
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