(CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won a straw poll hosted by the Tea Party Patriots Sunday.
The Tea Party Patriots announced the results Monday following a conference call held late Sunday when more than 23,000 supporters across the country voted on their selection for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
"An overwhelming number of activists from around the nation showed they are serious about electing a candidate who advances tea party principles," said National Coordinator Jenny Beth Martin.
But she added, "Just as in 2010, candidates like Newt Gingrich will need to show they will be fiscally responsible and protect the Constitution in the White House."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum all responded to questions selected by tea party coordinators that were provided to the candidates in advance.
Iowa Rep. Steve King prefaced candidate responses by observing, "I could make a perfect candidate out of the components" of contenders, but no perfect selection for the GOP nomination exists.
"No candidate has articulated the depth of the financial crisis that we're in," King said. "I want a presidential candidate to give us a date certain by which we would balance the budget."
The congressman, an active tea party supporter, is a kingmaker in the first-in-the-nation caucus state whose endorsement would benefit any campaign. Though he is close with Bachmann, he has not publicly endorsed her candidacy.
Romney touted the importance of America remaining a "merit society" as opposed to an "entitlement nation" on the call, and Bachmann pledged to repeal "Obamacare" by leading the charge to pick up Republican seats in the Senate.
She likened the strategy to that of President Obama's, whom Bachmann said "stole" the Minnesota Senate election that delivered a victory to Sen. Al Franken and sealed the Democratic majority in the chamber.
Santorum trumpeted his Senate experience saying, "I was the only one in this race who actually ended a federal entitlement. Newt talks about it as the speaker, but he wasn't the leader. I was the leader. I actually wrote the Contract with America welfare reform bill and said he was "passionate" about the balanced budget amendment.
Gingrich also reflected on his time in Congress. "When I was speaker, we made the decision to balance the budget," Gingrich said. "It took us about three years, we balanced it for four straight years."
But, according to Gingrich, "(President) Obama has us in much worse shape, so I think it'll take about five years."
Following questions with the candidates, supporters were able to select their choice for the 2012 Republican nomination and rate their enthusiasm for each individual candidate as hypothetical nominee.
Gingrich received 31% support, followed by Bachmann at 28%, and Romney at 20%. Sixteen percent of participants voted for Santorum, 3% selected Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and less than one percent chose Huntsman.
Gingrich may have won the Tea Party Patriots straw poll, but was edged out for the enthusiasm vote amongst supporters. Just slightly more of the participants said they'd by extremely enthusiastic if Bachmann were the nominee over Gingrich at 36-35% –27% said they'd be extremely enthusiastic for Santorum, and one quarter said they'd be extremely enthusiastic if Romney secured the nomination for president.
The tea party group also used the teleforum as a fundraising opportunity, with the goal of banking $25,000 for their activities. By the call's end, they claimed to have raised $22,000.
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If Gingrich becomes the Republican nominee, the Democrats will have so much past history to use against him and his current Republican fellow candidates are bringing up most of it now. The polls show he might have a hard time beating President Obama. Polls are really meaningless though. On the other hand, as the primary race continues , the Republicans are doing a pretty good job of discrediting Romney too. He has flip-flopped on so many issues, his jobs record as governor was pretty poor, he shipped jobs overseas, he is part of the 1%, he created the health care bill and he unfortunately does not seem that sincere at times. He is kind of wooden like Nixon was. It might not be right, but his religion might be a weak spot . Last time the Republicans lied so much about Pres. Obama being a Muslim and felt no shame about doing it. This time people will have a legitimate reason to examine the Mormon religion and make logical decisions about it. The Republican primary is like the best reality show ever this year. It makes the Obama-Clinton match-up seem like a real bore. Let the games begin.
Go Newt Go! Your nomination assures the re-election of Obama!