New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) - Jon Huntsman was a no-show at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, but the former Utah governor raised eyebrows with a surprising second place in the conference’s 2012 presidential straw poll Saturday.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who delivered a fiery and well-attended speech here in Friday, continued his record of strong straw poll performances and won the vote outright with 612 votes. Huntsman came next with 382 votes.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, coming off an impressive debate performance on Monday in New Hampshire, finished in third place with 191 votes.
They were followed by pizza magnate Herman Cain (104 votes), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (74 votes), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (69 votes) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (41 votes).
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum finished in eighth place with 30 votes. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who did not speak at the conference, finished in a dismal ninth place with 18 votes.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson came in last with just 10 votes.
It was Huntsman’s surprising runner-up finish, though, that grabbed the most attention on Saturday when the results of the two-day vote were announced.
When he was booked as one of the speakers at the semi-annual event, there were questions about how Huntsman - who has broken with GOP orthodoxy on issues like climate change and same-sex civil unions - would be received among the conservative activists who typically attend such gatherings.
Huntsman, though, came down with a last minute cold this week and decided to skip the event. He dispatched his wife, Mary Kaye, to greet conference-goers in his stead.
And his strong finish in the straw poll might have gotten a boost from some behind-the-scenes work by his political team. Several of his political advisers, including John Weaver, Chris Allen, John Yob and Jake Suski, made the trip to New Orleans and were seen huddling with delegates at the riverfront hotel where the conference was held.
Miller attributed the win to the former ambassador to Chinas economic message. He did not comment when asked if Huntsman advisers paid for their supporters to get to the ballot box.
“His willingness to take the debt crisis seriously and his foreign policy message really resonated with the younger conservatives who attended,” Miller said.
The margin between 1st and 2nd was 230, almost 2/3 of the runner ups total. how does that justify giving him the headline and the bulk of the story. I think we'd like to hear about the candidate that won.
Hunstamn and Paul often make the most rational, logical, civil statements from the GOP.
As an independent, thinking voter, I wish they end up on the ticket.
Fat chase of that in the dishonorable and bombastic Republican party of today.
Showing that those idiots don't understand he's a Libertarian...
Hey someone please tell those lunatic governors stop firing state and local government workers, then on the other band bash the president for not creating jobs while they keep firing folks. What the hell the world is coming to, don't they know that these consumers are only stable revenue small businesses have, now you only left them with mcdonalds consumers to bring in revenues.
SO there might be hope for the Republican party after-all when a true Conservative places second and isn't there! But alas the Paul Libertarians and the Neo-Cons will not allow a True Conservative to be the Standard bearer, I am guessing that within the next 30 days he will be branded a RINO by the extremists that seem to have taken over the Party!
Huntsman is the Republicans only chance against Obama!
If the Republicans select Paul, they will get his 22% of the vote and not much else. His views to those in the mainstream may fit his Libertarian party but that is a very small splinter group and bears no resemblence to rational people. Go Obama!
To Al who said:
I knew Paul was going to win BUT will we win the Iowa Caucus and can he win New Hamsphere? Will his followers show up in the polls?
It will be interesting to see if Ron Paul does pull off wins in Iowa and NH. I wonder if he does manage to pull off a win in those 2 states....will the GOP get behind him?
I truly believe that Paul could beat Obama.
It remains to be seen if the GOP machine will get behind Paul. They fought against Reagan tooth and nail. When it became obvious finally on his 3rd run that Reagan was the person that the majority of every day republicans wanted....the GOP finally got behind him.....but not before foisting Bush on him as his running mate.
If you talk to an old GOP'ers high up in the party....they will lay claim to wanting Reagan all along. Nothing could be further from the truth. They did NOT want him. But....now....why you would think they discovered or invented Reagan.
Huntsmam must be turning to the Dark Side by selling his soul to wingnuts, social conservatives, and Tea Party zealots.
This has to be the tenth straw poll - and the campaign is young.
This is all nonsense to gather headlines.
Ron Paul presents himself as the libertarian candidate. Why then did he sign the abortion pledge (see elsewhere in politicaltracker). If he believes in personal freedom, why then should he endorse restricting a woman's choice?
Is he drinking the Republican orthodoxy in order to get nominated?!!