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Mr. Perry, however, invested time and money in the contest. Heading into the event, he unveiled a leadership team for Presidency 5 led by Dean Cannon, speaker of the Florida House.

On Saturday, Mr. Perry hosted a breakfast for more than a thousand delegates and delivered his last pre-poll sales pitch, telling the crowd that Florida was a state that “picks presidents” and that it was a mistake for candidates to skip the “very important” straw poll.

“I think Ronald Reagan understood how important it was in 1979, and that’s the reason I’m here,” he said, suggesting that the former president’s straw poll victory helped propel him into the White House.

George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole also won the poll before winning the party’s presidential nod.

Mr. Perry also urged the delegates to chose substance over style — a message that he has repeated and that’s seen as a swipe at Mr. Romney, who many believe has delivered more polished performances in the debates.

“You’ve seen what happens when our country chooses a leader who emphasizes words over deeds,” Mr. Perry said. “We get a president like we have today.”

He added: “Americans don’t need more slick promises. We need a principled leader who will stand on his conservative values.”

The poll results come as Mr. Perry tries to regroup from a uneven debate performance Friday, where he came under fire from his GOP rivals and some of the audience for suggesting people are heartless if they didn’t support in-state tuition rates for children of illegal immigrants attending public colleges and universities.

Mrs. Bachmann continued the attacks in a fundraising email blast on Saturday. In it, she criticized the governor’s comments. “Our nation is trillions of dollars in debt, millions of Americans are without a job, yet Rick Perry sees it fit to offer in-state tuition to people who are not here legally,” she says. “It just doesn’t add up.”