Ron Paul wins RLC straw poll, Huntsman in 2nd -- but does it matter? 

Straw poll results should always be taken with a grain of salt, because they're very easy to manipulate by paying supporters to show up. Nonetheless there are some elements of this regional Republican Leadership Council straw poll in New Orleans that are worth a comment.

First, here were the results:

Paul - 612
Huntsman - 382
Bachman - 191
Cain - 104
Romney - 74
Gingrich - 69
Palin - 41
Santorum - 30
Pawlenty - 18
Johnson - 10
Roemer - 9  
McCotter - 2

A few observations. The obvious is that Ron Paul continues performing well in straw polls and Jon Huntsman had a stronger than expected showing, though his team isn't denying that they paid supporters to show up. The other thing that jumped out at me is how utterly terrible Tim Pawlenty's showing was at just 18 votes, less than the combined totals for no chance candidates Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer. While Pawlenty didn't speak at the RLC, neither Huntsman or Mitt Romney. If this poor showing is any indication of how he performs at straw polls, it's an ominous sign for Pawlenty going into the Ames straw poll in August, which is an early test of strength in Iowa, a state that he must have a strong showing in (if not outright win) to capture the nomination. With Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain in the race and Paul doing so well in straw polls this time, it's quite conceivable that Pawlenty could end up with a third or fourth place finish in Iowa, which would raise a lot of questions about the viability of his candidacy.

The RLC straw poll results themselves are likely to be overshadowed though, as the conference was tainted by the inexplicable decision to allow a President Obama impersonator onstage to make racist jokes.

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Philip Klein

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