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Published: Monday, 9/26/2011

Romney tops Michigan straw poll

Perry finishes distant 2nd at Republicans’ biennial gathering

BLADE NEWS SERVICES
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, share the podium before his address to the Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island. His father, George Romney, was Michigan governor in the 1960s. Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, share the podium before his address to the Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island. His father, George Romney, was Michigan governor in the 1960s.
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MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Michigan native Mitt Romney rolled over Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the rest of his Republican presidential rivals in a Michigan straw poll Sunday, reinforcing a favorite-son status that could make it tough for anyone else to win the state’s GOP primary.

It was the second day of bad news for Mr. Perry, who lost to businessman Herman Cain in a Florida straw poll Saturday before heading to the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference in Michigan.

Mr. Perry finished second in Florida just days after he faltered in a debate in Orlando, Fla.

Mr. Romney came in third in Florida’s straw poll although he isn’t officially competing in straw polls.

More than 1,600 elected officials and party regulars attended Michigan’s three-day conference. State Republican Chairman Bobby Schostak said it’s no surprise that the former Massachusetts governor did so well in Sunday’s poll.

His father, George Romney, headed American Motors Corp. before becoming Michigan governor in the 1960s.

Many people in the conference audience that Mitt Romney addressed Saturday night said they liked his similar mix of experience in the public and private sectors.

“His roots are here, they’re strong, and he’s the one to beat,” Mr. Schostak said. He thinks most of the presidential candidates will compete in Michigan, despite Mr. Romney’s front-runner status. Candidates can win a share of delegates even if they don’t win the primary.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry won some supporters at the Michigan conference but his second-place finish was the second consecutively over the weekend. Texas Gov. Rick Perry won some supporters at the Michigan conference but his second-place finish was the second consecutively over the weekend.
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Mr. Perry assured the party chairman Saturday that he’ll spend lots of time in the state, among several that will hold Feb. 28 presidential contests right after the traditional early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada — hold theirs.

“I think you’ll see four or five candidates campaigning here,” Mr. Schostak said. “They’ll be here often.”

Michigan Republicans are holding a Nov. 9 presidential debate but haven’t announced who will be participating.

In the straw poll, Mr. Romney won 50.1 percent of the 681 votes cast and Mr. Perry captured 16.8 percent.

The two gave separate speeches Saturday to the activists gathered for their biennial conference, with Mr. Perry winning some supporters but Mr. Romney clearly the overwhelming favorite.

Michigan gave Mr. Romney his only primary win in the 2008 presidential contest before he pulled out of the race once it became clear that Arizona Sen. John McCain would win the nomination.

Mr. Cain got 8.5 percent, while Texas Rep. Ron Paul got 7.7 percent. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann received 4 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won 3.5 percent, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum got 3.4 percent.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman got 2 percent, and Michigan Rep. Thad McCotter, who dropped out of the race Thursday, came in at under 1 percent with just five votes.

Straw poll voters also chose Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as their favorite to be the party’s vice presidential nominee.

He got 23 percent of the 481 votes cast, while Mr. Cain received 14 percent, Mr. Gingrich got 13 percent, and Ms. Bachmann received 12 percent.

Though none of the candidates mentioned Mr. Rubio as their top choice for vice president when they were asked in last week’s debate in Orlando, his name has become a favorite choice in Washington parlor games and political circles.

The poll was sponsored by the National Journal Hotline and National Association of Home Builders.

Though 11 candidates were listed on the ballot, only Mr. Romney and Mr. Perry went to Michigan over the weekend to address the hundreds of Republican delegates and party leaders who took the ferry over for the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.



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