Libertarian Ron Paul won a straw poll in New Orleans at the Republican Leadership, earning 40% of the vote on Saturday afternoon. The question asked to the room of over 1,000 potential Republican and Conservative voters was, “If the primary election for president were held today, for whom would you vote?” Paul earned 612 votes, doing 38% better than the second place victor, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.
Huntsman, who said earlier this week that he had plans to formally announce that he’s running for President, didn’t actually appear at the event — his family appeared, but did not speak in front of the crowd. Huntsman earned 382 votes, ahead of names like Michele Bachman (191 votes), Herman Cain (104 votes), Mitt Romney (74 votes), Newt Gingrich (69 votes), Sarah Palin (41 votes), Rick Santorum (30 votes), and Tim Palwenty (18 votes).
Howevever, Huntsman — who actually has his photo up on the wall at President Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago as one of his potential challengers in the 2012 Presidential Election, along with Romney and Palwenty — is receiving criticism from many for allegedly paying supporters to appear at the straw poll and vote for him as a way of jump starting his campaign and have people start talking about him.
According to Politico, Huntsman’s spokesman, Tim Miller, isn’t neither denying nor admitting to the claims. “Not commenting on internal strategy,” Miller said. “The result demonstrates that young conservatives are responding to his record of success in Utah, willingness to take the debt problem seriously, and foreign policy message.”
Considering that Paul is unlikely to earn the Republican nomination, even though he won the straw poll this year and has shown gains from recent years at similar straw polls, it is a strong showing for Huntsman. On the other end of the spectrum, the numbers are devastating for Palwenty, as he was well behind the pact, behind names that have not even announced they are running in 2012. Palwenty is still polling in single digits behind other major candidates as he still earns criticism from many for not challenging Romney on his statewide health care plan at the GOP debate this past Monday night, which he dubbed “Obamney Care”.