Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has won the 2007 Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll. Just over 14,000 votes were cast Saturday and over 31 percent of them were for Romney.
“I do remember many years ago coming across this state on a train, looking out the window, seeing all that tall corn, all those green beans…soybeans, that is, and I said, ‘Boy, oh boy, God must love Iowa,'” Romney said. “Over the past seven months I’ve been here. I’ve done over 200 events…and I’ll tell you, I love Iowa and I love the people of Iowa.”
In his speech to a crowd gathered inside air conditioned Hilton Coliseum, Romney cast himself as an outsider who will reform government.
“What brought us here is that change begins in Iowa and change begins today,” Romney said.
After the Straw Poll results were announced, Romney called out competitors Rudy Giuliani and John McCain for skipping the event.
“It’s too bad the other guys weren’t competing here,” Romney told reporters. “If they’d have thought they could have been successful, they’d have been here.”
Second place went to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who captured 18.1 percent of the Straw Poll vote.
Huckabee strolled in for his Saturday afternoon speech as the song, “Walking on Sunshine” played in the hall.
Huckabee opened with a joke about his home state of Arkansas and the NFL player who’s been accused of running illegal dog fights.
“Sometimes I know that a Republican in my state feels about as out of place as Michael Vick at the Westminster Dog Show,” Huckabee said. “It is really good to be in the presence of this many people who are willing to stand up for conservative values and people.”
Huckabee played up his low-budget campaign as a matter of contrast with the well-funded Romney.
“I can’t buy you. I don’t have the money…I can’t even rent you,” Huckabee said. “But today the Straw Poll is a day that can change all of that…the fact is these are voters, here, who understand that they’re buying the cereal, not just the box.”
Kansas Senator Sam Brownback finished third, with 15.3 percent of the Straw Poll vote.
“Thank you, Iowa, for putting this wonderful event together,” Brownback said. “The road to the White House goes through Iowa and I’m not skipping it. I’m going right through Iowa.”
Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo came in fourth with 13.7 percent. Fifth place went to Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who pulled in 9.1 percent.
Sixth went to Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor who said he had to finish first or second or he’d drop out of the race. Thompson got 7.3 percent. Late Saturday afternoon, before the results were announced, Thompson wasn’t ready to concede.
“It’s in the hands of the Lord right now,” Thompson told reporters.
Fred Thompson came in right behind Tommy Thompson, with 231 votes. Rudy Giuliani was in the eighth position, with 183 votes. Duncan Hunter was ninth with 174 votes.
John McCain got 101 votes and finished next to last. The last place finisher was Chicago businessman John Cox, who received 41 votes and finished 11th.