Mitt Romney won the straw poll of participants in the Washington state Republican caucuses on Saturday.
Romney won with 37.7 percent followed by Ron Paul at 24.8 percent, Rick Santorum at 23.8 percent and Newt Gingrich at 10.3 percent, according to the Washington State Republican Party. Almost 51,000 people turned out to caucus.
The victory sustained the momentum Romney gathered with wins last week in Michigan and Arizona, and positioned him well for the 10 contests coming up on Super Tuesday.
The result was a blow to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who were running neck-and-neck for second place. Both had both campaigned in Washington and were looking for grassroots energy to put them over the top. Santorum has not had a win since a trifecta of victories on Feb. 7; Paul has not won any contests to date.
The caucuses were the beginning of a multi-step process to choose 40 of the 43 delegates Washington will send to the convention Aug. 27 in Tampa (the other three are automatic slots for the state party chairman and two Republican National Committee members). The presidential straw poll was a non-binding beauty contest to gauge candidate strength among the participants.
Automated polls Wednesday through Friday showed movement in Romney’s direction, propelled by a large Mormon contingent.