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.
Sorry, mittens, but no Southern Baptists "christians" were allowed to vote in this straw poll, you will never get past that crowd of biblical fascists.
So, now we know NH hasn't got what it takes to pick the best candidate to lead the country.
That man doesn't believe in anything but defeating Barack Obama in an election, but then again neither do the tea party so they're kind of a perfect match.
'Obama bin lyin'? So much for civil discourse.
Wtih news of Todd sleeping with a prostitute on the horizon, the Good Ship Palin will get a boost in the polls. Perhaps, a Palin/Bachmann ticket is just what the country needs to show that things CAN get worse.
Republican and tea party folks hate President Obama so much, they would sell their soul and vote for satan if his name was on that ballot rather than vote for the president...The president has done many things to help bring this country back from the brink of diaster, but sadly, there are people out there who would rather see this country go to hell than to be run by a African American and give him any kind of credit....I don't say that alll tea party folk are evil, but I'm willing to bet that 95% of them are...A lot of these same people who call themselves evangelicals claim to have nothing in common with Mormons, which is Romney's faith...I'm just curious to see how that's going to play out if he gets the republican nomination....
Why not Steve Forbes or Jeb Bush. Mitt Romney has the business sense that can get us out of this mess obama and the liberals have created.
Remember when Obama was going to take a scaple to the budget and end the deficit, restore America's standing in the World so everybody loved us, end racism and rebuild the economy with green jobs? I can go to the mall food court and find 50 people who would make a better president then Obama. Not a big Romney fan, but we can only go up from here.
@Todd – I doubt that they will question him. The social cons have looked for a savior in each president. They've blindly trusted each candidate. Twenty of the last thirty years have had republicans in office, yet no major legislation for the social cons. All Romney needs to do is convince the social cons that having a Mormon president is okay. If he can do that, he's got the religious right's vote, period.
Romney should have been the Republican nominee in 2008. While we were trying to decide who was the actual conservative in the race, McCain slipped in the back door. We knew McCain was not conservative and he didn't rally enough support from the party base or the Independents to beat the anti-Bush zealots.
after the shooting in az. some gop right wing nut sells knives @ a booth???? just go's to show they have not realy listened to the american public at all. looks like americans will make a mockery out of the next election and vote for "jimmy.. the rents to dammmm high party" at least we get what we vote for then.
Big Whoopie. But straws don't vote, people do and I am sure that by the time the Rethugs are done in congress, America won't be in the mood for Mitt.
All these people fighting against obamacare, are maybe in fact the very ones who need it ,careful people we all are one pay check away from needing help from someone. all the politicians are doing is lining their own pocket with tax payers money. They have health insurance,and the politicians,and congress are frreezing pay and laying off police and so on why don't they freeze their pay or put some of their money back in the economy. lay some of them off there not doing anything anyway,but making laws they are breaking.
So much for the call from liberals to tone down the wacko rhetoric. It's alive and well on these boards.
Absolutley hilarious !!!!! What a complete joke Republicans have become.
The Mormon,and The Moron2012
Mitts and Sarah
Tee hee, hee
I hope this man wins the nomintation. The debate against Obama on healthcare reform should be popcorn worthy..
The problem is that Romney will be haunted by his past as he was in the 2008 primary. He wanted something that is much like the Health Care bill is trying to do now. Will it take a long time to get everything to where it needs to be; the answer is yes it will.
Romney is just another american taliban(republican) POS, he is just like all republicans, he wants to shine in the big time, he has tons of money but no where to spend it, he would just lead us to the poor house, start another war. How can anyone vote for a republican is beyound me, they have never done anything good for this country but they have done plenty of bad things.
While not a Republican, I was happy to see the Haley Barber got 0 votes. This man is an embarrassment in so many ways.
no huckabee in the poll? that seems a bit odd...
If Mitt Romney wins the ticket. I see another win for President Obama!!! They could never criticize President Obama's healthcare bill ever again!!!! Wow, how hypocritical these Tea Party people are.
Why do these people keep calling up the "Reagan values" as if it was the Holy Grail? Hello? Reagan was a showman! He was an actor. He was an entertaining figurehead who spiraled this country into so much debt, we're still paying it off! His policies put us in a world of hurt. Yes, lots of things happened in the 80's and we needed an actor to stand up with the other political "rock stars" of the day. In that respect, he did a good job. As president? Get real! He is remembered fondly because he wasn't boring, not because he was a good president. He was an effective speaker. He did things that should have gotten him impeached.
Reagan was not the best president, folks. He was just an entertaining one that could speak well.
That means, doing the math here, 105 people voted for him. Based on these 105 people "Romney Wins Straw Poll". Sounds like a groundswell to me.
Romney is the best choice, and this Independent would be first in line to vote for him.
Good. I hope Romney wins the Republican nomination for 2012. Because in the 21st Century, a Mormon could never be elected President of the United States. But it sure would make for an interesting bashing of a religion.
Message to Republicans who are not on the extreme right: Your party does't want you any more.