Texas Rep. Ron Paul, riding the strength of his loyal, passionate — and mostly young — libertarian-minded enthusiasts, captured the presidential straw vote Saturday at the Republican Leadership Conference.
Out of 1,542 votes cast, the Texas congressman and libertarian hero earned 618 of them — a decisive 39.7 percent in a field of 10. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who cancelled his scheduled appearance here due to a summer cold — and whose aggressive straw vote efforts took place beneath the radar and were rumored to include paying the way of his supporters to New Orleans — was second with 24.8 percent. Michele Bachmann came in third at 12.4 percent.
Mitt Romney, who leads the GOP field in fundraising, name identification and national polling, finished a distant fifth, behind pizza magnate Herman Cain. Romney, who made a point of not signing a sweeping pro-life pledge offered by the Susan B. Anthony List because he thought it went too far, did not even reach 5 percent. The rest of the field, in order, was Newt Gingrich (4.5 percent), Sarah Palin (2.7 percent), Rick Santorum (2 percent), Tim Pawlenty (1.2 percent), and Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer with less than 1 percent each.