August 12th, 2007
11:22 AM ET
16 years ago

Romney wins early vote

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

Filed under: Iowa • Race to '08
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Kevin M, Ann Arbor MI

    Before the actual straw poll, the "experts" had Ron Paul at 0% and dead last. Fifth with 9.1% is way better, go Doctor NO!

    August 12, 2007 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  2. Dan (Baltimore, MD)

    Good job, Romney! Of all the contestants you paid for the most admissions. The Ames Straw Poll is a joke. Now that we've all yawned, let's move onto real votes.

    August 12, 2007 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  3. Tim, Cincinnati OH

    An impressive win for Romney and an excellent showing for Huckabee. This would be a good time for some of the weaker candidates (Tancredo, Paul, Hunter, T. Thompson) to get out of the race and let the serious contenders have the stage.

    All this rah-rah for Ron Paul is useless. He's a deadender. I can only figure that it's coming from Democrats who want to make the GOP and Bush look bad.

    August 12, 2007 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  4. Pam A S'Side, PEI

    Why on earth would Americans endorse a Trillionaire for President? Have you not had enough with the Big Bucks Oil philanthropical, Corporate kissing, pocket bulging all for me none for you hypocrits?

    Most might think that after six long devastating six years of being governed by a bunch of Narcisstic oil digging for profit at anyone's expense, nim com poops you might have learned something!

    God Bless Our World.

    August 12, 2007 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  5. John Taylor, Santa Maria, CA

    In these times of instant communication, 24-hour news, the Internet, etc., these early polls have lost their relevance. Does anyone really believe that this poll is any indication of the national mood? The media can try to spin this into something important, but it isn't.

    August 12, 2007 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. Christian, Palmetto FL

    Really, the nomination of any of the frontrunners (McCain, Giuliani, Thompson, or Romney) would be great for the Democrats. Do the Reps honestly expect to win when they are, overall, supporting an administration with approval ratings consistently in the lower 30s? How can they expect to win with their support for the Iraq war when a solid 2/3 of the country are dead-set against it, including the vast majority of independents?

    August 12, 2007 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  7. Chris, Memphis, TN

    "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. "

    Romney can "claim victory" if he wants, but if Giuliani had really been in it, the outcome would likely have been different.

    August 12, 2007 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  8. Charity, Chicago, IL

    Good for Mike Huckabee. I'm a registered Democrat and will be voting as such in 08, but I think Huckabee is a very genuine person and I like to hear about his successes. Also, he plays a mean bass guitar.

    August 12, 2007 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  9. Bruce, Franklin, TN

    I continue to hope that Mike Huckabee will sneak up on the "front runners." I continue to be impressed with his message, consistency and level-headedness.

    He's the first candidate to whom I've donated money. Hope the media will start to cover him more.

    And to all you Ron Paul supporters, while I do not discount your candidate, it worries me that he is Bill Maher's "new hero."

    August 12, 2007 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  10. Independent Voter, TN

    Jason in El Dorado:

    I have not seen where Gov. Huckabee is for a national sales tax. Where did you get that information?

    Personally, I think that a flat income tax is the fairest tax. Recent studies have shown that if every American income worker paid approximately 15% tax on their earnings, that scenario would be revenue neutral and would eliminate all deductions, loopholes, etc.

    August 12, 2007 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  11. VanReuter NY NY

    So he paid about, what, TWENTY-FIVE-GRAND a vote? And a guy at 2% in the national polls, with $1.85 on hand gets half as many votes? Way to go mitt!
    He'd make a great nominee for the repubs.
    Please support him, to assure a democratic victory in 2008!

    August 12, 2007 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  12. E. Johnson, Dallas, TX

    Wow! I just saw that the Romney campaign purchased 10,000 tickets and bussed people to the event, and that’s his result?! I don’t think I want that level of inefficiency in the White House. Brownback, Tancredo and Paul spent next to nothing. Who ever spent the least money per vote has the strongest message. I’d like to see that list.

    August 12, 2007 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  13. Ray, Peru, IN


    August 12, 2007 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  14. Pam S'Side PEI

    Maybe Pictures don't do him justice but Ron Paul doesn't look physically capable of handling any political position let alone the leadership of such a Vast Nation. What experience and credentials does he hold?

    August 12, 2007 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. doug

    26,000 tickets sold, only 14,000 votes counted?

    LOL, how well did Ron Paul REALLY do?

    August 12, 2007 11:50 am at 11:50 am |

    Nevermind the 5 boys... Has ANYONE in the Romney family EVER served in the United States Military?

    August 12, 2007 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  17. Jason, El Dorado Hills, CA

    Independent Voter, TN:

    Huckabee supports the Fair Tax which if you look it up is a federal "consumption tax" meaning you pay taxes on what you buy. That is the same as the sales tax imposed in 45 states and would actually go on top of it.

    The Huckabee website says "The FairTax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax, like the taxes on retail sales forty-five states and the District of Columbia have now."

    That is directly from his website under Issues-Taxes/Economy. And don't be tricked, they call it a percent of "Tax-inclusive sales price." This means that a $100 item would cost $130 but they would calculate the tax as 30 dollars out of 130 so it appears as 23% but as most people know its a 30% tax. Check it out.

    August 12, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  18. Jason, Los Angeles, CA

    To Gabriel from Corpus Christi,

    The reason people need to realize Ron Paul is right and give up their government goodies is because we have 59 trillion dollars of debt (in current debt and promised entitlements) right now. We can not afford to continue at this pace. Our interest payments on our debt is becoming an overwhelming part of our budget. This has a great effect on our economy, our dollar and our lives.

    Ron Paul wants to cut government spending so that we stop falling deep into debt. Ron Paul has never voted for an unbalanced budget or a hike in taxes and sure will never sign one as president. Conservatism used to be about controlling runaway spending. The last president to have a surplus of money throughout their term was Bill Clinton. We need to control spending like Ron Paul can.

    August 12, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  19. David, Salinas, CA

    Why does CNN keep deleting this post? It seems in keeping with their satandards to me. I recognize their right to publish whatever they please, but I'd just like some clarification.

    So what does this pay-to-play result actually mean?

    Romney bought himself 30% at around $1000 a head, but he’s got $200 million so I guess he can afford it. Still pretty weak given his resources and expectations.

    Huckabee is the big winner with some rightful claim to the “true conservative” mantle.

    Brownback is in close enough third so he might not quit, even though he probably should.

    Almost 2000 Iowans are delusional enough to pay $35 to vote for a maniac like Trancredo.

    Ron Paul can claim a small success and march weirdly on.

    Tommy Thompson is toast.

    Fred Thompson can ignore the whole thing and still go up a couple points.

    Giuliani will still be buried under his “I was at ground zero more than anyone” rubble for the next news cycle.

    Duncan Hunter was never really in the race, but he might keep going out of reactionary spite.

    Apparently John Cox is some sort of party functionary whose hobby is losing elections.

    And where is the love for John McCain, an American hero and the only guy on this list who is actually qualified to be President of the United States?

    Overall it was a big night for the Democrats.

    August 12, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  20. Independent Voter, TN


    I was under the impression that Congress appropriated and spent the money. The president has veto power and submits a budget, but ultimately Congress is responsible for govermnent spending.

    Clinton did not have a surplus throughout his presidential term. In fact, the GOP controlled congress worked with Clinton to raise taxes and to cut spending. Also, as I recall, the Dems would have no part of a GOP proposed balanced budget amendment which was being touted at that time.

    Revenue in our government is not a problem. Congress' continuing to spend money (with the president's advice and consent) which they don't really have has always been the problem.

    I like much of what Ron Paul has to say, but on a few issues (especially foreign policy) I disagree strongly. Best of luck to him in the months ahead.

    August 12, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  21. S. Sado

    I guess I do not feel that Iowa straw polls mean much especially when the top candidates have not run in that state. In fact I do not feel Iowa reflects what most Republicans will do. Obviously , the Republican party needs a greater diversity than the religious right and conservative base to win against the Democrats. Mr. Rommney is good looking but very conservative and hopefully he will lose decisively in the other states which he should if we stand a chance winning against the Democrats.

    August 12, 2007 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  22. Paul, CO

    Romney/Huckabee ticket?

    August 13, 2007 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  23. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Gabriel of Corpus Christi, TX, you may be right about our fellow Americans, but I wish you weren’t.

    A true conservative, such as a libertarian, supports the traditions of the Founding Fathers and cherishes the Constitution. However, the American people in general have become so soft and corrupt, and public education in this country so antithetical to the freedoms and traditions of our Republic, that most Americans don’t even know what the Constitution comprises, let alone respect or cherish the principles found in the preamble and in the Bill of Rights. Americans have come to see Big Government as a parent, absolving them from personal responsibility while at the same time restricting their liberties “for their own good.” It becomes mother, father, and Santa Claus, toting a big sack of money extorted from other Americans and distributing the proceeds to those who make the biggest clamor. Busybodies who think that everyone should follow their dictates have learned to run to Big Government to force us to follow their agenda. Those who make a career out of being “victims” have learned to run to Big Government for a largess of other people’s money. Constituents flock to their Congressmen/women for more freebies from the public trough. They don’t realize that, what Big Government gives, it can easily take away. Americans are so eager to relinquish their individual sovereignty to Big Government that they shouldn’t be surprised that it has become their master.

    On the other hand, there is nothing ridiculous in what our Founding Fathers had proposed for our nation. It IS ridiculous that so many of us think it “old-fashioned” to adopt the prescripts that they laid down for us to preserve. Instead, there are those Americans who want to continue what was laid down in the 20th century, when an estimated 200+ million people around the world were killed by Big Government. So, I suppose, by all means, we should marginalize Ron Paul and other true conservatives and continue where the 20th century left off?

    August 13, 2007 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Damian

    I agree with Chris. I don't know much about Huckabee, but based on what I've heard I think once the scrutiny strats coming on strong he'll be dropping fast in the polls and I don't think he stands a chance in the actual primary. I think it's a momentary blip and we'll see either Giuliani or Romney win in Iowa, with Huckabee in somewhere in the 3rd to 5th range, or lower if he emits a Dean-like scream on camera in the next few weeks. Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!On the other hand, it would be kind of fun to have him in the white house if for no other reason than his name. President Huckabee? Sounds like the head of the Fraternal Organization of Carnival Workers or something.

    April 27, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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