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.
I'm not voting for him or any repub. This guy is a member of a church that was racist toward blacks. I highly doubt he is any different than his cult..er I mean church.
This mean's only one thing , it means that the republican's have finally gotten tired of Palin ! That's it ! Romney couldn't
even beat John McCain ! He is a proven loser nice try republican's but President Obama will win again !
and if Romney wins you'll have two boys wearing suits bike up to your house to deliver a Watchtower book.
Think about it. The Republican party is full of religious hypocrites, cultists like Romney, and crazies like Palin... and don't even mention the gravedigger Guliani.
With no formidable challengers, Obama is in a good position. The carnival like cast of potential GOP candidates is good for the democratic party. Micheal Steele simply wasn't dirty enough or willing to use the tested GOP tricks of mass media deception ie Swift boats, to lead them to victory in 2012. They have now fixed that problem and lets remember this party will stop @ nothing to win even if it means bringing our federal government to a halt.
Romney is the Republican equivalent to John Kerry.
Romney turned my stomach when he made the comment that his sons served their country by working to get him elected. Yeah right, not one of those sons of a rich Republican had the guts to join the military. And this guy has the cajones to say that I ( a gay American) should be a second class citizen. Another white, rich, male, wearing his religion on his sleeve judging others who don't conform to or follow his religion.
Tired of this man running for POTUS.....how many times is it going to take for it to sink in....he is not wanted as a POTUS. Seems like the republicans are always running the same old people....enough.
The name Huckabee is not to be seen anywhere! GOP nomination will be quite interesting to watch. We are waiting to see what we have never witnessed in politics!
Well, now that Glen Beck has made Mormonism acceptable by the faux right-wing christians, Romney will have their "blessings". They are sheepies and will follow whoever is driving the hate-train!
Mitt Romney can't win over the majority of Christians. Sad to say but true, Americans won't elect a Mormon!
Romney is the only GOP nom who could give Obama a run for his money. But we Democrats and progressives needn't worry: Tea Baggers and conservative Republicans are too blinded by bigotry to elect a Mormon. Obama will crush any other opponent. Long live the new USA.
I hate to say this but out of all the crazy right, I would prefer Mitt to win the Republican nomination...
...why you ask???
...because the guy is so phony that all he will care about is his approval ratings if he was President, meaning that at least he won't be another STUBBORN Bush who will plow on with his disasters no matter what kind of havoc he's causing behind him....
...and Mitt is not as conservative as he says, he just wants the nomination, then he'll pander to everyone, but it wont work anyway, Obama will mop the floor with him, so I just waisted 1 minute of my time writing all this....
I dont trust anyone who has "game-show hair" This man made his dough shipping jobs out of the USA
At his worst he's better than Palin or Bachman, not to mention Demented! Will be interesting to see the difference in number
of voter turnout in 2012 as opposed to 38% in the mid-terms. For all the $$ the Repubs. poured into the mid-terms, doesn't
appear they got their monies' worth! Our president will be a two termer!
todd, romney's a joke, but he'll probably be president two years from now. unfortunately, he's a moderate, and will emasculate the republican party's national platforms.
So Republicans love this guy who pretty much created a much more liberal healthcare plan than Obama. Got to love hypocrites.
No wonder the country is going down the toilet. Next election is going to be determined by the uneducated people of America
If the republicans had any sense they woulds have ran Romney or Guliani in the last election instead of McCain. They both have executive experience. Senators make the worst presidents.
Personally, I honestly do not care if we have a Republican, Democrat or a Tea Party person who wins the 2012 as long as it is not Obama. It amazes me to see how ignorant, not stupid, but, ignorant, people are, who dont actually fact check on Obama and what he does and where he has been in life. Something as simple as a bio on all the name players in the white house now. Why hasnt any news outlet done a bio on all of their socialist/marxist education and followings. Heck one was in charge of a communist newspaper. Come on, CNN unless you have communist or Marxist tendencies I suggest you investigate a tiny bit into Obamas past. He is clearly setting this country up. Is it so unbelievable that no one wants to suggest it. Please do some real old school investigating. It has nothing to do with him being black that is just part of the scheme. There are phenomenal black candidates out there, who come in from all three parties.
Romney is a good man. And he can win. He's got my vote.
Run Mitt, run! With another season of Big Love loaded up we'll never forget how you've been holed up in SLC on the board of directors at Marriott for the past 4 years. We know where you get your marching orders from, brethren.
Romney has been all over the place depending on what constituency he is trying to impress. It will be particularly difficult for him to explain the medical care reform program he was responsible for in Massachusetts. He will most likely fall back on it being a state issue not a federal issue. So I guess that means that what's good for someone from Massachusetts is not good for someone from, say, Arizona despite being Americans all.
After McCain, most people are very wary of these candidates that the Democrats want us to run! Furthermore, a poll from New Hampshire doesn't really influence us folks south of the Mason Dixon line!
Romney is a wishy washy flip flopper whose opinions are whatever is prudent at that moment. But why believe me? His record speaks for itself. In a general election, I sincerely doubt that he would pose any real threat to Obama.