Cain (Associated Press photo)
Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain was a surprise victor in a straw poll of GOP presidential candidates held at State Republicans’ 29th Annual Spring Gala on Friday.
Cain took 54 votes of 357 votes cast. He edged out former Massachusetts Gov. Willard “Mitt” Romney (52) and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (51). Daniels has yet to decide whether he will run.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has said he will not run, took 39 votes. Ex-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had 28, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin 22, ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich 14, and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also 14.
Trailing were Rudy Giuliani with 12 votes, Donald Trump and Rep. Ron Paul with 10, Rep. Michele Bachman at 9 votes, Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin at 8 votes apiece, ex-Sen. Rick Santorum with 7 votes.
Cain has roused Tea Party rallies and worked as a business pundit for the GOP-leaning Fox News Channel. He shared the stage with Pawlenty and Ron Paul in South Carolina last week when Fox staged the first forum for Republican presidential hopefuls. He is an outspoken advocate of restoring the gold standard.
Republican State Chairman Kirby Wilbur did not exactly treat the straw poll as a national bellwether.
“The close results demonstrate that the Republican Party does not have a clear frontrunner,” said Wilbur, himself a former KVI Radio host. “Herman Cain has been doing an excellent job getting his name out among Republican voters and his style appears to many people.
“As the process moves forward and more individuals enter the race, it will be interesting to see how the perception of the various candidates changes.”