Paul wins straw poll, Huntsman places second

James Plummer Contributor
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NEW ORLEANS- Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul walked away from the Republican Leadership Conference Saturday with another straw poll victory. Paul received 612 of 1542 votes cast, just under 40 percent.

Paul’s campaign characterized the result as a “shockwave” in a message emailed to supporters after the vote.

That shock was palpable in the ballroom of the Hilton Riverside Hotel when Paul’s numbers were announced, with a wave of boos rippling throughout the crowd. The emcee declared, “I’m just the messenger” as Paul’s remaining backers fought back by cheering and clapping.

By the time the remainder of the results had been read and Paul had been confirmed as the winner, the jeering returned, as Paul’s voters on the floor clapped and cried out their candidate’s name. Although Paul’s supporters overflowed into the hallway Friday, most were absent for Saturday’s proceedings.

One Paul supporter, who declined to provide his name, told The Daily Caller that he was “a little disappointed” by the behavior exhibited by some of the supporters of losing candidates.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who spoke Friday, came in third place with 191 votes. Also at the weekend conference were Herman Cain, who scored 104 votes, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who received 69 votes, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won 30 votes.

(Paul, Bachmann rock day two at Republican Leadership Conference)

Perhaps an even bigger surprise than Paul’s win was the second-place finish by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Huntsman placed second with 382 votes despite skipping his scheduled appearance Friday, citing health issues. Gov. Mitt Romney, who beat Paul by one vote in a straw poll held here a year ago, came in fifth with 79 votes.

One potential candidate who was not on the straw ballot, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, spoke to a welcoming crowd. Many present were hoping that Perry would announce his own run for president during his address, but it did not happen.

Perry’s speech ended with much of the crowd chanting “Run, Rick, Run!” Aaron Diaz of Texas told TheDC that Perry likely could have scored second place in the poll had his name been on the ballot. Diaz cited the reaction on the convention floor and Perry’s ability to unite fiscal and social conservatives. “A lot of the candidates have adopted Ron Paul’s positions, but it was Perry” who got the whole crowd on his side, said Diaz.

Arkansas State Legislator David Sanders took the podium later and told the crowd that he and 20 colleagues in Arkansas had sent a letter to Perry asking him to run.

The only candidate listed on the straw ballot who spoke Saturday was former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who scored only nine votes.

Before the results were announced, Roemer told TheDC that he was happy with the reaction from the crowd to his speech, which hit many populist themes. Roemer told TheDC that his four-point agenda of, “Fair trade, deregulation, energy independence and limiting money in politics” is what made him “quite distinct” in the field.

Roemer took shots at the fundraising and “bundling” practices of Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, General Electric, and Goldman Sachs. He had harsh words for his opponents saying, “No candidate has mentioned money in politics. Name a name and I consider them bought and sold.” Roemer is capping contributions to his campaign at $100 per person.

Although Roemer is still in the exploratory phase of his campaign, he told TheDC that he expects to establish a formal campaign committee “fairly soon.”