- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2011

NEW ORLEANS — Texas Rep. Ron Paul won the straw poll at the Republican Leadership Conference, organizers announced on Saturday.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman came in second, followed by Rep. Michele Bachmann.

But the big event of the day was the appearance of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a potential GOP presidential candidate. His entrance into the Hilton ballroom elicited wild cheering from Republicans hungry for a winner in next year’s presidential election.

During this speech, he drew a standing ovation when he said that ensure no improper voting in his state, Texas passed a law requiring voter picture identification.

He also boasted that Texas did not raise taxes throughout the current anemic U.S. economic period.

Prior to Mr. Perry’s speech — which emphasized the 10th Amendment and federalism — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus took the stage.

“Now we are getting lectured on our finances from China,” Mr. Priebus said, referencing a particular sore point with GOP audiences.

“A country that surrenders its sovereignty to its bondholders can’t guarantee freedom,” he added.

The straw poll measured the ability of potential 2012 nominees to bus, fly or otherwise get supporters to the poll site. In many cases, the candidates’ campaigns bought supporters’ conference-admission tickets. The practice enables supporters who otherwise would have stayed home to vote in the poll and inflate a candidate’s apparent strength.

Mr. Paul’s campaign sent hundreds of supporters to the Friday evening portion of the event to cheer him on when he spoke, boo other candidates and cast straw poll votes.

The names that placed in the top seven places in the poll are Mr. Paul with 612 votes; Mr. Huntsman with 382; Mrs. Bachmann with 191; former corporate businessman Herman Cain with 104; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 69; former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 41; and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 30.

Mr. Huntsman was a scheduled speaker but was unable to attend at the last minute, claiming a cold.