I know Perry’s not done. I know it, but … sometimes I have to remind myself.

Cain is now running in second place in Florida now that his support surged nearly 19 percentage points after last month’s Republican Party of Florida’s Presidency 5 debate and straw poll, according to a survey of likely Florida voters conducted by Gainesville-based War Room Logistics, which typically polls for Republicans.

Meantime, Perry’s support plummeted nearly 16 percentage points.

Perry had been tied as a Florida frontrunner with Mitt Romney at about 25 percent on Sept. 20, dropped to third/fourth place with 9 percent of the vote where he’s statistically tied with Newt Gingrich (10 percent).

Apart from Romney, who trails Obama by five, everyone else in the field gets crushed by The One head to head. (O leads Perry 53/36.)

Perry’s going to finally get some good buzz later this week when he releases his third-quarter fundraising numbers, which should serve notice that he’s the only “Not Romney” in the field capable of going the distance with Mitt (for the moment). He might get some good news tomorrow too if Christie decides to dive in and provide centrists with an alternative to Romney, which will take a chunk out of Mitt’s Florida lead by the time of the next state poll. And yet … I think Perry’s already lost the mystique that excited grassroots conservatives when he first announced. Everyone knew he was vulnerable on immigration and wasn’t a world-class debater, but he had that gold-plated jobs record and was undefeated after 10 years of Texas political gunfights. I figured he’d be so vastly superior to Romney as a retail politician that even if he took some lumps about the border, he’d mash Mitt up on RomneyCare and flip-flopping and would lead comfortably by now. That is to say, I thought voters would be able to support Perry as Perry and not merely as “Not Romney.” Now I wonder. Rolling out an economic plan and/or a plan on entitlement reform might help restore some luster, but a bit of well-timed wonkery on jobs doesn’t neutralize Romney’s core argument that Perry is unelectable. He’s still got baggage on Social Security — which may help explain his collapse here in Florida — and now he has to deal with that grenade about his family’s hunting grounds that WaPo tossed into the scrum.

As for Cain, NBC wonders: Does he want to be the nominee or does he want to be a star?

One reason why he’s resonating with conservatives is that he’s a non-politician with a business record (which might explain why Cain’s getting a second look but Rick Santorum isn’t). So Cain now has his moment, and guess what: He doesn’t appear to be using it. For starters, with about three months until the Iowa caucuses, he’s going on a book tour for much of October. Second, he’s not scheduled to be back in Iowa until mid-November. And third, his communications director just left his campaign — to work for the re-election of Louisiana’s lieutenant governor (!!!). Those aren’t just signs of someone who’s unlikely to win the GOP nomination; they’re signs of someone who isn’t really trying to win, a la Mike Huckabee in 2007-2008. Cain does, however, meet with Donald Trump today. If you judge Huckabee’s 2008 campaign as a success, then Cain is on a successful path.

He might be stuck contractually, having scheduled the book tour back when he was a five-percent candidate and now forced to ride it out just as he’s become a 20-percenter. But there must be ways around that: E.g., promise the publisher a second book, which is bound to be a bigger seller as he becomes better known, in return for letting him cancel the current tour to hit the trail in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. He’s got an outside shot at the first of those three, especially now that Bachmann’s staffers have started to bail on her. If he does well in Iowa, he’d have momentum and a quasi-home-field advantage in South Carolina (he’s from Georgia), and if he did well there, he could capitalize in Florida by reminding voters there that they kickstarted his campaign by giving him a crucial straw-poll win. He’s throwing away a golden chance to be a factor in the race.

Via the Daily Caller, maybe we’ll just have to take the advice of conservative “wise men.” Sigh. Exit question: If Perry continues to struggle in Florida, whether because of Social Security or other reasons, will big-money Republicans pass on him as a lost cause? If he can’t play in a key swing state, there’s no sense getting behind him. Fourth place behind Gingrich, of all people, is simply gruesome for a would-be nominee.