Everyone in the Media Filing Center expected Ron Paul to win the straw poll — and he almost did. Despite bringing a reported 900 delegates to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Paul got 438 votes, while Mitt Romney edged him by a single vote, with 439.
Sarah Palin came in third, edging Newt Gingrich by nine votes, 330-321. Interestingly, Palin and Gingrich topped the list of second choice selections as well. No one else even came close; Mike Huckabee followed with 4% of the vote. Tim Pawlenty and Mike Pence got 3% each, Rick Santorum got 2%, and Gary Johnson got 1%.
Romney can claim a sense of victory here, but it’s still only going to have limited impact. The thrust of this conference was much more about 2010 than 2012, and the straw poll appears to only have attracted half of the attendees. It still shows that Romney has a good deal of momentum coming into 2012 among the Republican establishment.
Update: It’s been pointed out in the media filing center that both Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee spent some money to campaign here. Huckabee has a booth in the exhibitor hall; Palin’s team put out caribou beef jerky with a plug for Palin attached in the main ballroom on Friday. Romney also made a big push with piggy banks and advertising boards. For Huckabee, the outcome has to be a big disappointment.
Update II: It’s also worth pointing out that Romney didn’t speak at the SRLC, citing a conflict with his book tour, while Palin, Paul, Gingrich all made appearances. Huckabee didn’t speak at this event, although he did have a booth here.
Update III: ABC News says that 1800 ballots were cast, which is about half of the attendees. I’ve corrected the first report.
Update IV: The SRLC released vote totals later that showed a nine vote difference between Palin and Gingrich.