Romney Trounces Perry in Michigan Straw Poll; Rubio the Pick for VP
MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. - In a rout, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney trounced Rick Perry and the rest of the GOP field to win the National Journal Hotline/National Association of Home Builders Straw Poll of GOP activists attending a weekend conference in Michigan.
Romney received 51 percent of the 681 votes cast, a whopping 34-percentage point victory over second-place Perry, who garnered 17 percent. It was the second straight defeat for Perry in a straw poll, after he finished second in another contest Saturday in Florida. The twin disappointments, along with weak debate performances, have raised questions about whether the Texas governor will remain the perceived front-runner in the GOP nomination fight.
Romney grew up in suburban Detroit and in the Michigan governor's mansion; his father, George Romney, served as the state's chief executive from 1963 to 1969. Michigan is likely to hold its presidential nomination contest on Feb. 28, a week before Super Tuesday. It is also an important state in the general election contest.
Both Romney and Perry addressed the conference Saturday, and while Perry took subtle digs at his GOP rival, Romney denounced President Obama's economic leadership. "I just don't think he's equipped for what's happening," the former Massachusetts governor said.
Third place in the Hotline straw poll went to former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who won the Florida poll Saturday. He received 9 percent of the votes among Michigan Republican activists.
Among the other vote-getters:
· Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, 8 percent
· Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, 4 percent.
· Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, 4 percent.
· Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, 3 percent
· Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, 2 percent.
The National Journal Hotline/National Association of Home Builders poll also found that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was easily the activists' favorite to be their party's vice presidential nominee. Rubio received 23 percent of the 481 votes cast for vice president. Cain finished second with 14 percent followed by Gingrich at 13 percent and Bachmann at 12 percent.
The straw poll was conducted Friday and Saturday at the biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. Nearly 700 people cast votes in a poll that was open to all voting-age conference attendees, most of whom were party activists and elected officials. The straw poll is not a scientific survey and it does not necessary reflect the attitudes of Michigan primary voters at large.
Questions exploring the activists' ideological views suggest that while the delegation was overwhelmingly conservative, a strain of pragmatism drove their decision-making. For instance, half said they would be willing to support a candidate who would get the economy moving, even if that candidate supported abortion rights and same sex marriage.
While 80 percent said the tea party will help the GOP in the 2012 elections, 17 percent said they fear the movement could alienate independent voters. Two out of every 10 straw ballot voters hold a negative view of the tea party.
The delegates were split almost evenly on the question of whether they value the qualities of electability or ideological agreement most in a candidate, with ideology getting 51 percent of the vote.
Romney seized home field advantage in his remarks Saturday night. He charmed he crowd with inside references to Michigan ("I like people who, when you ask them where you're from, they hold up their hand") and an endearing moment with his wife, Ann. As the Romneys stood side by side during Mrs. Romney's brief remarks, members of the audience began tapping their wine glasses with silverware, a wedding tradition that calls for a kiss from the bride and groom.
Romney at first looked puzzled then said, "Oh!" - and gave his wife a quick kiss.