Derry, New Hampshire (CNN) - Mitt Romney claimed victory Saturday in a 2012 presidential straw poll conducted by the New Hampshire Republican Party, more than one year before the former Massachusetts governor is expected to be on a real ballot in the state's all-important presidential primary.
Romney captured 35 percent of the vote, which surveyed nearly 300 members of the New Hampshire State Republican Committee who gathered in Derry for the organization's annual meeting. He was followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who garnered 11 percent of the vote, while Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty won 8 percent.
They were trailed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 7 percent, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who each won 5 percent, and talk show host Herman Cain at 4 percent of the vote.
The rest of the 20-person field - a group that included New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and real estate mogul Donald Trump - registered at 3 percent or less.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and South Dakota Sen. John Thune - two potential Republican contenders well known within the Beltway but untested in the states that make up the early part of presidential nominating calendar - both underperformed, netting 0 percent of the vote.
The poll was also sponsored by WMUR-TV and ABC News.
Romney's win was perhaps a foregone conclusion in New Hampshire, a state that has seen plenty of the former presidential candidate in recent years. He owns property in Wolfeboro, a town in the eastern part of the state, and maintains a deep reservoir of political support among Granite State Republicans.
Supporters of his potential 2012 rivals were eager to downplay the win, claiming that Romney should have won by a larger margin.
Romney, though, managed to beat back the conventional wisdom that he has problems connecting with Tea Party activists. He won a vote that canvassed a Tea Party-heavy crowd, which elected one of their own as state GOP chairman - businessman Jack Kimball - on the same day.
The straw poll was also something of an afterthought at the day-long proceedings. The poll's late addition to the meeting program - it was announced on Wednesday - caught many activists by surprise and largely headed off any attempts by potential candidates to influence the outcome.
Two of last year's high-profile straw polls, one held at the Conservative Political Action Conference and another at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, saw devotees of Paul and Romney aggressively campaigning to influence the vote (Paul won at CPAC, Romney at the SRLC).
But aside from a few supporters of Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Cain handing out leaflets and Dunkin Donuts "munchkins," there was not a whiff of active politicking from any of the possible presidential contenders at the New Hampshire meeting, held in a stuffy high school auditorium in Derry.
The buzz instead surrounded the hotly-contested campaign for the party chairmanship - a battle between the establishment-backed Juliana Bergeron and the more conservative Kimball, who had the support of the state's loose grassroots network of Tea Party and libertarian groups.
The fiery Kimball won by just 23 votes - in a tally of 222 to 199 - a defeat not just for his opponent but also for the now-former state GOP Chairman John Sununu, who endorsed Bergeron and campaigned fiercely on her behalf.
"We are going to send Barack Obama packing!" Kimball vowed after winning. "You all know that we are in a war, and we are going to win it. We are going to pull ourselves back from the brink. We are going to go after the Democrats the entire time."
Kimball immediately sought to mend a rift that opened during the chairmanship race between mainline Republicans, who backed Bergeron, and the grassroots insurgents who came out on top.
"I am a Republican, a Republican conservative who happens to come out of the Tea Party," he assured the committee. "But you will find those Reagan values in this guy."
In the days leading up to the vote, there were concerns that only a slice of the full 493-member committee would brave the snow and frigid temperatures to attend the annual meeting. The predictions were wrong. Party officials reported that 429 members showed up, and nearly all of them cast ballots in the chairman's race. Only 273 participated in the straw poll.
While New Hampshire had a libertarian anti-establishment streak long before the Tea Party movement emerged in early 2009, longtime GOP observers in the state agree that a newer generation of conservatives became energized during last year's midterm elections.
That much was clear in Derry, where men in hats donning Jack Kimball stickers mingled with Free Staters. One entrepreneur wandered through the crowded lobby hawking editions of a self-published parody of "The Cat in the Hat" that mocked President Barack Obama.
A vendor ran a booth selling knives and bumper stickers with slogans like "Obama Bin Lyin': Impeach Now!"
Meanwhile, the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire - one of the state's most visible Tea Party-aligned groups - ran a rival straw poll that permitted committee members to express a preference for multiple 2012 candidates.
Their poll featured a ballot with many of the same big names as the main straw poll, but with a few additions: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.
Wow....a war huh? No wonder this country is floundering. With that attitude we all might as well pick up boxing gloves and starting punching. Unbelievable...Mitt huh? No thanks.
so much for civility, Republicans and tea baggers huh? God bless Prez. Obama!
LOL.. Republicans in Congress hate "Obamacare" so much that they will nominate the guy who wrote it a.k.a Mr RomneyCare.
man is a phony. if he's the gop nominee, my independent vote (and many like me) are going elsewhere.
And this means what now? Remember, Romney went from liberal to conservative – backing gay rights to homophobia, pro choice to anti abortion. If I were a repub, I'd seriously question this man's sincerity.
There were slim pickings in that straw poll. The candidates go from the ludicrous to the totally insane.
please, GOP, if you're serious... look at someone like gary e. johnson
Gotta luv it ! Truth is truth. Anyone got a tele-prompter? Come on you liberals ..were waiting for your comments....
35% of 429 people in a straw poll means a whopping 150 people want this idiot as President. Quite the juggernaut,
Romney is a flip flopper. He changes views to pander to votes. Also, why is it always a "war" or "fight". I am not in a war with any of of my fellow Americans. War is in Afghanistan. If they want to be part of a war go enlist to fight over there.
Ron Paul is the only hope for the GOP in 2012.
Romney is just another puppet, and a sorry excuse for a presidential candidate.
He would probably make a great used car salesman though.
The Republican Party should get someone better than the people that on this poll. Because none of them would bet Obama. First off all the Republican Party need too get someone that isn't back by the Tea Party. And you someone more that in the center ,and Is more for the American People Instead of Big Business , the very rich and wall street and don't lie.
i have a feeling if romney becomes the GOP nominee, he may become the al smith of the GOP
How will the conservatives reconcile the fact that Romney was pro-choice while Governor of Mass and pro gay rights, along with implementing health care reform there that is in many ways similar to President Obama's health care reform?
These points have been made before, but the kicker is: Evangelicals consider the Mormon Church to be a cult and not Christian. Don't believe me? Just do a quick Internet search on "evangelicals Mormon" and you'll see how much viseral hatred there is out there for people of Romney's faith.
"We are going to pull ourselves back from the brink," the newly elected New Hampshire GOP Chairman said as the Obama-bashing continues unabated. Gee, I thought that the Obama administration already pulled us from the brink that the GOP led us to. They must live in some alternate universe.
God help America. A Mormon and then 16% of the Idiots in NH voted for the Wacko Twins? Palin and Bachmann! How dumb we have become. No, how dumb you have become!
As a Independent, I am one who will vote for Mitt. As I look at the alternatives to Obama? Please, none of them hold a candle to his experience and cerebal power. Huckabee? Come on.. Palin? Please.. I could go on..
This is good news, we need a man like Mitt Romney to run this country.
WOW Sarah has fallen to the bottom of the pack... hmmmm I guess the party is over for her.
Why is everything a 'war' with these guys?
They sure love killin'!
Let's see, 12 consecutive months of private sector job growth (after the Republicans closed out with 13 consecutive months of private sector job losses), stock market up about 80% since March of 09, a few weeks after Obama took office. Economic expansion instead of the recession he inherited. Yep, time for a change at the top. Get rid of that Socialist. Absolutely.
A Mormon has about as much chance at the presidency as a Scientologist.
Romney is the best Republicans have in the running but they don't support him because he's a Mormon which makes them Morons.
This guy is a joke. It's going to be funny if he wins the nomination and is asked about the health care law. It is almost the same as what he put thru as Governer. He is a fake and changes his mind on issues as much as the wind blows. Palin, Newt, Fat Boy Barbour, and Mutt. Seriously? I would be worried as a Republican with these jokers. Especially when you know Senator Deminted will split the vote when he endorses a Tea Bagger to run because they aren't Nazi enough for him and the bass akwards South. I am a Northern transplant to the South and a lot of these Bible thumpers are scary.
What war? Why is everything war,war,war with these republicans?