Ron Paul emerged as the clear winner in the Cedar Valley Tea Party Presidential Straw Poll on Tuesday evening.
The event drew 60 participants, and of that Paul took 37 votes. Rick Santorum trailed behind with nine votes and Newt Gingrich with five. Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman got three votes each. Mitt Romney got two and Rick Perry had just one.
"I think I was an unknowing member of the tea party before it was a movement," said Greg Radke, of Waterloo, who spoke for Paul's campaign. "Ron Paul epitomizes the three principles of the tea party: constitutional principles, fiscal responsibility and free markets."
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Judd Saul, a local tea party organizer, said the Cedar Valley group will not endorse any candidate; they just wanted to have the straw poll, "To get people to participate, have fun and partake in politics," he said.
The event at the started with a chance for a representative from each campaign to make a speech, followed by voting, much as will happen at the actual caucus. Rod Blum, a first district Iowa Congressional candidate, was the guest speaker, followed by an announcement of the results.
Radke lauded Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy, which drew issue from some in the crowd.
"He wants us to change to fit him," said one man in the crowd. "If he could just change to fit us, I would vote for him."
He said he agreed with everything except Paul's plan to bring home all oversees troops.
Rudy Cran, who spoke for Gingrich's campaign, flew in from San Antonio, TX to volunteer for the candidate. He told the audience he arrived in Iowa yesterday.
"You can't always stand on principle," he said of why he supported Gingrich. "You have to stand on reality. Principle may get you to the White House, but you have to get someone there who can get something done."
He said Gingrich has the experience and skills to negotiate the politics of Washington to bring about change.
Asked why he decided to spend his December in Iowa, Cran said, "I love this state. I like the caucus process."
He had perhaps come the farthest to try to influence the straw poll, but he wasn't alone. Many Ron Paul supporters in the room said this was the first time they had been to a Cedar Valley Tea Party meeting.
One of them, Dawn Burns, of Waterloo, said she liked what she heard and hoped to come future gatherings.
"I am all about being free in this country," she said.
The Iowa caucuses are on January 3. Patch will provide live coverage of the results as they come in.