- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2011

NEW ORLEANS — First former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he would skip all Republican Presidential straw polls, and now the Texas Republican Party says it won’t hold a straw poll — thanks to a lack of interest expressed by the candidates.

The state party, headed by Houston attorney Steve Munisteri, announced Thursday that its canvass of announced presidential nomination campaigners found little interest in the Texas poll or for that matter, much interest in a much-ballyhooed Florida straw poll scheduled for later this year.

The Texas party said the “lack of participants would severely hamper the party’s ability to ensure attendance and make it impossible to safeguard against a financial loss on the event.”

The Texans said other factors in their decision included “recent press reports that Florida was not receiving as much interest in its fifth presidential straw poll as expected and an announcement from the Romney campaign that they would not be participating in straw polls.”

The announcement came as state party chairmen, Republican National Committee members and announced and potential 2012 presidential nomination hopefuls gathered here for the Republicans’ Southern, Leadership Conference.

About 300 major donors attended a VIP reception that featured former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a declared candidate who then addressed the full conference.

Mr. Gingrich said the election next year is not just about winning the White House but also winning the 12 extra Senate seats needed to give Republicans a filibuster-proof majority, plus 30 more House seats to give conservative lawmakers sufficient cushion to undo the legacy of left-wing governance under Democrats.

He said he would do much of that through executive orders, including removing all “czars” appointed by previous presidents.

But, with tongue in cheek, he drew a line beyond which he would not go.

“I’m not easy to abolish half the federal judges” appointed by Democratic presidents, Mr. Gingrich said before somebody in the audience yelled “why not?”

That incited much laughter from the partisan crowd that hooted and applauded throughout Mr. Gingrich’s speech.

He devoted a good part of his speech to praise for Israel, which also elicited shouts of approval.

Not having to spend large sums of money participating in straw polls might be particularly of benefit for candidates like Mr. Gingrich who, though well off financially, is not the multimillionaire that some of his nomination rivals are.

• Ralph Z. Hallow can be reached at rhallow@gmail.com.

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