Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain pulled off an upset Saturday in the Florida straw poll: He took 37 percent of the 2,657 votes cast, easily beating Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Perry came in second with 15 percent of the vote; and Romney took third, with 14 percent.
It's a big victory for Cain, who up until now has not gotten a lot of attention in the race, in large part because of his standing in the polls. He's placed fifth or sixth in many polls, although in this week's Quinnipiac poll of Florida voters, he came in fourth — behind Perry, Romney and Sarah Palin (who has not announced she is running but was included in the poll).
I spoke to many delegates over the past three days who said they were impressed with Cain, by his plain talk and common sense, his pledge to run the government like a business and his 9-9-9 plan to replace the current tax code with a national sales tax and a 9 percent flat tax on businesses and individuals.
One Cain supporter, Todd Catella of Orlando, said after the vote he knew many people who switched their vote this week after hearing Cain speak.
"They want to believe in Herman Cain, but have been afraid to because he's been so low on the radar, in the national polls from the press and the media," he said. "But I believe today is going to make a statement that Herman Cain is a force to be reckoned with."
Some of the votes Cain won came from former Perry supporters. Many at this week's event said they were having second thoughts about the Texas governor after he defended his support of a Texas law that extends in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants.
For Romney, placing third is a respectable finish. Although he appeared in Thursday's debate and spoke yesterday at the CPAC gathering in Orlando, he didn't actively compete in the straw poll.
Neither did Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, but she paid a higher price, coming in dead last with just 1.5 percent of the vote.