LAS VEGAS — Herman Cain placed first Friday in a straw poll of Republican activists at the Western Republican Leadership Conference.
Cain took 31 percent of the more than 550 votes cast. Mitt Romney came in second with 29 percent, while Newt Gingrich's 21 percent put him in third.
Although straw polls are of limited use in predicting who will be the eventual nominee, they can be revealing indicators of whether candidates have grassroots momentum or appeal to certain populations.
The top tier of the straw poll also mirrored the trend in the Republican presidential race nationally. Cain and Romney are on equal footing in recent polls, with Cain taking first place in some surveys and Romney topping the charts in others.
One in ten participants chose Ron Paul, who typically performs well in straw polls, due in part to his ability to mobilize his supporters to turn out for such events. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rick Santorum each took less than 5 percent of the vote.
Citizen Outreach, a conservative Nevada-based group, conducted the poll over the three days at the Las Vegas hotel where the candidates appeared Tuesday in a CNN debate.
Cain, who has catapulted into the top tier of the GOP race over the past month, had his first major victory in a test vote on Sept. 24 when he pulled off an upset in Florida's P5 straw poll.