Herman Cain takes the stage to address the Conservative Political Action… (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters )
It always helps to show up. Republican Herman Cain, a former chief executive of Godfather Pizza and the only declared candidate of either party for the 2012 presidential election, won a straw poll Sunday among "tea-party" supporters at a weekend policy summit in Phoenix. Cain was one of the weekend's most popular speakers.
Two other presumed candidates who showed up -- U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- placed second and third.
But the event's sponsor, Tea Party Patriots, also released separate results for online voting. In that poll, Paul, a tea-party favorite for his unbending stance on fiscal conservatism, won by a substantial margin. That result was disappointing to many of the summit's attendees but not unexpected.
"It's the people who showed up, paid their money and have skin in the game that matter," said Lee Earle, an Arizona tea-party activist. Paul's supporters, he said, are well known for their online activism.
A cheer went up in the cavernous Phoenix convention center when Cain, who is African American, was named winner among conference attendees. He received 22% of the on-site ballots cast. Paul and Pawlenty each received about 15%. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came in fourth, with 10%. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney led the back of the pack, with 6%, followed by Rep. Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman barely registered on the scale.
Jenny Beth Martin, one of the co-founders of Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella organization of more than 3,000 tea-party groups, said her members were still looking for the right candidate. Nearly 1,600 people cast ballots, but the group did not break out the numbers for online versus on-site voters.
"The mood at this summit shows that tea-party activists are looking for leaders who share our principles of fiscal responsibility and limited government," Martin said.
Showing up in person is generally an important factor in straw polls. Cain, Paul and Pawlenty all gave speeches here over the weekend.
In February, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Paul won the presidential straw poll, followed by Romney and Gary Johnson, a Libertarian and governor of New Mexico.