Romney won the Iowa straw poll Saturday
AMES, Iowa (CNN) –Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Iowa Republican straw poll Saturday and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had a surprise second place showing, giving both presidential candidates a boost six months before the state holds its first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Romney received 4,516 votes to Huckabee's 2,587, while Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback came in third place with 2,192 votes of the 14,302 ballots cast. (See full results below)
But Romney's victory was slightly overshadowed by Huckabee, low turnout by GOP activists and the absence of several opponents. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson chose not to invest the financial resources needed to win the contest. Still, their names appeared on the ballot and all received votes.
"It is a win," David Yepsen, political columnist with The Des Moines Register, said of Romney. "But it is somewhat shallow, because his big opponents didn’t show up.
"What does it mean to get in the ring and your opponents don’t even show up," added Yepsen, who is considered the dean of the Iowa political press corps.
Romney immediately claimed victory when the results were announced.
"Today, the people of Iowa took the first step towards bringing change to Washington," he said in a statement released by his campaign. "This important victory sends a signal to grassroots Republican activists across the country that we are working hard to earn their support, and that we are ready to begin the work of strengthening our economy, our military and our families."
Huckabee appeared almost stunned by his second place showing when he greeted the media following the announcement of the results. He had been saying for months that he would drop out of the race if he did not perform well in the straw poll.
"Obviously, this was an incredible day and victory for us," Huckabee said. "It shows the kind of momentum that we were hoping for and needing. I think what happened for us today was stunning."
He added, "For us, it's really that we over-performed. I think if you look at those even above us or below us there was a lot who underperformed. If you think about how little money we had. How little we spent to get here it says more than being in second place."
The straw poll was held on the campus of Iowa State University and is viewed as a test of organizational strength in Iowa. In almost every case, the candidates paid the $35 per person fee charged to vote in the straw poll. It is a major fundraiser for the state Republican Party.
The candidates set up tents outside Hilton Coliseum to feed supporters, hand out campaign literature, t-shirts and stickers as well as allow people to escape the blazing sun.
Romney and Brownback invested the most resources in the straw poll by paying for the privilege to erect massive tents near the voting entrance. The former Massachusetts governor had a large outdoor stage with bands and other entertainment performing throughout the day. Brownback offered air conditioning in his tent that featured a stage for entertainment and a moon bounce and other activities outside for children. Huckabee, like the other eight candidates competing in the straw poll, had much smaller operations scattered around the back of the coliseum.
In the middle of the day, the candidates each took the stage inside the coliseum to talk about their vision for America and urge attendees to vote for them.
Yepsen said it is clear that Huckabee defeated Brownback in their battle for support of social conservatives, who play an influential role in the GOP caucuses.
"He was in a competition with Brownback for the social conservatives, and he did a better job," said Yepsen, who did note though that Brownback's "third place finish is not bad."
Perhaps anticipating a poor showing at the event, California Rep. Duncan Hunter told CNN hours before the results were announced that he planned on continuing his bid for the White House. He came in ninth place with 174 votes.
"I think for the guys who have spent a lot of money here getting their message out … they are going to have to judge whether or not they have done as well as they want to do," Hunter said. "For us, we consider this a start of a marathon. This is just the tip off."
In the next 24-72 hours, the GOP presidential field could be winnowed if some of the candidates believe Saturday's showing is an indicator of the lack of support for their campaign.
A senior McCain advisor released a statement shortly after the results were announced to declare his decision to skip the straw poll does not mean he will try to win Iowa in January.
"Over the past eight months John McCain has met with Iowans across the state, built a broad base of support, and demonstrated why he is the most prepared candidate to lead America from day one." said campaign manager Rick Davis. "We are fully committed to competing successfully in the Iowa caucuses, and we look forward to continuing to campaign aggressively in the Hawkeye State."
But Romney and Huckabee both said the absence of McCain, Giuliani and Thompson was an acknowledgement they could not win the straw poll.
"Their decision not to compete here was not a decision based on strength," Romney said at a news conference. He added, "The guys who decided not to play would have played here if they thought they could have won."
A malfunctioning voting machine delayed the release of the results by more than one hour, as GOP officials were forced to count more than 1,500 ballots by hand.
– CNN's Mark Preston, Paul Steinhauser and Chris Welch
Just like Iowa straw polls of the past, Romney's decisive win today shows that he has the mustard to win the nomination. Romney has the skills and the charisma to defeat Hillary Marx Clinton.
Amazing that Ron Paul generated 1/3 of Romney's votes. Especially when one evaluates the dollar-per-vote ratio each respective candidates spent.
Concerns of who will be the next president is completely arbitrary until someone cares to make public the nuisance presented by indirect hypnotism. As who truly understands how minds are justified to decide.
Protect the president from hypnotism, or don’t blame the president or other politicians for the next military engagements and any other mistakes to come.
The state of the Democracy of the United States of America and most other free world nations are so corrupted from unseen elements that the state of democracy in those nations have become crippled to near failure by shear lack of a proper levels of legislature via apportionment.
Remember the current president still go majority vote, which means the people still trusted George W. Bush alone.
Few are always easier to control than many.
Pretty impressive that a little known governor was able to scare off too national heros with almost absolute name recogniation to win the biggest event besides the actual caucuses themselves.
Romney has run his campaign like he would run the country, with zeal and competence.
Contrast that with Thompson. Not even willing to leave his home office.
Top three all bused in voters to the event, of course they would win. The problem for them comes when the actual primary comes around and they need to have voters passionate enough about their campaign to get out and vote on their own without the freebies. I think overall Huckabee should be proud. My guess is Romney bought more tickets to the event than he received votes and his results certainly dont show well for the amount of money he spent, even if he won. Brownback should be embarassed, he flat out said he would beat Romney and even though he spent a lot of money to get Iowans to the event, he placed third!
14,000 votes? LOL, the fixers had their work cut out for them apparantly, working an hour and a half overtime, ensuring Romney got what he paid for.
Big victory for Huckabee and Ron Paul though
Not one mention of Ron Paul. Typical. Keep trying to cover up the truth you guys.
Way to go Governor Huckabee!
Once again, mass media ignores the Ron Paul grassroots phenomena...it's truly disillusioning...
CNN you are breaking America's heart.
Ron Paul? Who is he?
YOOOOOHOOOOOO!!! Go Huckabee!! Great job in Iowa.
Fred Thompson can stay out, John McCain needs to get out and Giuliani needs to figure it out. It's down to Huckabee and Romney. Period.
Hopefully with these results, Tommy Thompson, Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo will drop out immediately while Ron Paul and Sam Brownback (especially since he is from Kansas and threw more money into Iowa than Huckabee) will be on their heels.
Giuliani and McCain quit, so anything other than this being played as a loss for them is a joke.
I think the only two good candidates the republican party has are Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.
I think that Paul might be the better candidate of the two. Romney is good, but I don't know how I would feel voting for him even though I am a mormon.
Jason: Your comment is inaccurate. Only two of the top three (Romney & Brownback) bused people to the event. Huckabee did not have the money to do so.
And for the Ron Paul supporter, if you want to talk about dollars per vote, wouldn't Huckabee win that hands down?
Go Huckabee!! Great job in Iowa.
Governor Huckabee, way to go!
Who is Ron Paul? A dream come true for those of us who want to preserve the republic. An upright person who will soon be discovered by more people. A nightmare for neocon traitors.
Yes, I've noticed the "mainstream" media falling over themselves trying not to report anything–good, bad or otherwise–about Ron Paul. What's that about?
Obama is more black than any blackman who has ever been in america's political mainstream. Obama do not need written or unwritten history to establish his african identity. Everyone knows obama is the seed of kenya.
I like how Romney quickly claimed victory. The man outspent his opponents by how much money and still his next place competitor, a former governor with a beter record and not nearly as much money, scored better than 50% of Romney's total. I think Romney's star is flip flopping out of the sky and Huckabee's brand of moderate conservative populism is on the rise. He won the last debate and did extremely well in the straw poll. Now he needs to translate these into fund raising strengths and watch as Romney has to keep pumping even more of his own cash into his campaign just to convince people he is worth even looking at.
Mitt Romney outspent his minor opponents by literally millions and he couldn't even get one third of the vote.
And that was without any of his real competitors in the game. Romney is sad, he's what happens when someone tries to buy an election.
Huckabee is said to have done well because of the Fair Tax talk. That is scary. The fair tax is anything but fair, look it up (factcheck.org). I did a quick calculation using the current federal income tax brackets and the proposed federal sales tax, which would really have to be 34% but i will use 30% because thats what the American Fair Tax Association says. If i make 50,000 this year, i pay 9165 in federal income tax leaving me with 40,835 to take home. If we got rid of the federal income tax and implemented the federal sales tax (at 30%) my 50000 income would be translated into only 38,461.54 spending money. The Fair Tax is a way for the republicans to raise the taxes without anyone knowing.
This story and comments seem to credit everything and everyone possible (including Ron Paul)for the win, except the candidate!! He won with almost twice to votes of the second place winner. Is it not just remotely possible that there was no vast conspiracy and that just maybe he may have been the best choice, h'm mm just maybe???
Ron Paul seems to be a nice old man, and he could never be accused of not holding his beliefs strongly, but alot of those beliefs are ridiculous, and he is not a viable candidate by anyone's standards.
Sure, alot of people may be fed up with the system, but a libertarian will never be elected president. And not because "the system" is out to keep him down. The vast majority realizes that, however pure his motives, he would be a disaster of a president. People may whine about big government, but almost everyone benefits from the government-either from social programs such as medicare and social security, or from farm and industry subsidies, or by utilizing public land, or simply from the jobs that government spending creates. When push comes to shove, people know that. Its only pork when the money doesn't benefit YOU. No one will ever support a candidate who truly wants to start dissolving the government. And they shouldn't.
That said, I hope he stays in the race so as to be a voice of reason on certain issues (I.E. the war) within the republican camp.
And that said, OBAMA '08!!!!!
Mitt is the most viable conservative in the Presidential race and the best qualified to bring new leadership with his vision for America's future. As Michael Reagan has reminded everyone, his beloved father, The Gipper; when Governor of California signed a major pro-abortion piece of legislation before he became our party's greatest conservative and pro-life President. So good people do evolve in their positions on social issues. Gov. Romney has an impressive resume to showcase. When elected governor in 2002 he assumed a monstrous 3 billion dollar deficit and put the state od Massachusetts back in the black without raising taxes. His success in public office mirrors his record in the private sector at Bain Capitol where he reorganized and made household names of companies such as Domino's Pizza and Staples. He also bailed out the U.S. Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, and turned a profit there for 100 million dollars. I have nicknamed Mitt, "the Rominator", for obvious reasons. Candidate Romney graduated valedictorian in undergrad; then pursued a double degree at Harvard (M.B.A. and law) graduating in the top 5% of his class while doing so. Gov. Romney's record not only reflects his fiscal expertise; but he's also pro-life. As governor, Romney vetoed a bill which would have funded human cloning and the destruction of human embryos. A strong family man, Romney has been married for 38 years to his wife Ann, has 5 sons, and 10 grandchildren. Romney has also taken a tough stance on terrorism, and he's the only top tier presidential candidate who strongly opposed the flawed Senate immigration bill( aka "No alien left behind") architected by Senators McCain and Kennedy. Romney currently leads all Republican candidates in New Hampshire, Iowa and Michigan