"Multiple Choice" Mitt Romney returns to the news. The gazillionaire former Massachusetts governor and airbrushed anti-gay 2008 presidential candidate has emerged as the favorite in the much-hyped New Hampshire straw poll.
Romney took the top spot in a presidential straw poll of the 493 members of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. Thirty-five percent of the 273 members voting in the straw poll backed Romney, who came in second in the state's 2008 Republican primary and earlier this month held a wide lead in a poll of New Hampshire Republicans and GOP-leaning independents.
Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul came in second in the straw poll with 11 percent, followed by former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (R) with eight percent, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) with seven percent and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) with five percent.
The straw poll, which was conducted by ABC News and Manchester-based WMUR-TV at the state party's annual gathering in Derry, asked state committee members to choose from 20 potential White House contenders, including those such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) who have ruled out of the running. Write-in candidates were also permitted.
The presidential primary and caucus season is a year away and experts caution against reading too much into the results. "It’s an initial taking of the temperature of the activists in New Hampshire," University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala tells the Boston Herald. "But I would caution reading too much into it. I’m sure the situation is very fluid right now even among activists. There are going to be a lot of twists and turns between this January and next."
Fewer than 300 state committee members voted in the poll, but 421 members "cast ballots in the race for state party chairman" and selected a Tea Party activist as state party chairman, adds the Wasington Post.