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With delegates attending from 38 states, the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans is one of the first major cattle calls for Republican presidential candidates this year and its straw poll is an early test of organizational strength. This year, Ron Paul won with about 40 percent of the vote. Paul lost to Mitt Romney by just one vote last year.
Perhaps the most surprising development was the second place showing by Jon Huntsman, who canceled his speech at the event due to a cold. Supporters of the former Utah governor and ambassador to China hope this signals that Huntsman will do better than expected among the conservative base. Michele Bachmann came in third and Herman Cain fourth. Romney came in fifth. His campaign is skipping straw polls this year, though sources say some of his supporters were trying to get out the vote. Both Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich saw a dip in support from last year, when they essentially tied for third behind Romney and Paul.
“This win is just the latest indicator of how the majority of American opinion is turning in Ron Paul’s direction,” said Jesse Benton, Paul campaign chairman. “Listening to all the other speakers and candidates, you hear them saying the things that Dr. Paul has been saying for years, and they are saying it because they know that’s what Americans are looking for right now.” Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller said, “[Huntsman’s] willingness to take the debt crisis seriously and his foreign policy message really resonated with the younger conservatives who attended.” Both Paul and Huntsman are seen as less interventionist on foreign policy and inclined toward major domestic spending cuts.
Here are the full results:
Paul - 612
Huntsman - 382
Bachman - 191
Cain - 104
Romney - 74
Gingrich - 69
Palin - 41
Santorum - 30
Pawlenty - 18
Johnson - 10
Roemer - 9
McCotter - 2
Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke to the gathering but was not included on the straw poll ballot. This event has been called the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in years past.
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