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Romney Wins but Huckabee's Got the Buzz

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Ames, Iowa -- Of the thirteen thousand votes cast, Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney won the Iowa Straw Poll with 31% of the vote, but Mike Huckabee sucked all the oxygen out of the event with his stunning second place win with 18.1% of the vote.

"We've got the traction," Huckabee told reporters after the Straw Poll results showed the former Arkansas governor garnered 2587 votes compared to Romney's 4516. Third place winner Kansas Senator Sam Brownback chalked up 2192 votes with 15.3% of the total vote.

"We've had the hardest time raising money. If we come in number two, we can raise more money. Everyone is waiting to see if we have traction," said Eric Woolson, Huckabee's Campaign Director in Iowa.

The upset Straw Poll results give Huckabee a big boost over his rivals.

The big dog competitors who didn't participate in the Straw Poll - Rudy Giuliani (1.3%), Fred Thompson (1.4%), and John McCain (1%) all scored in the single digits at the Straw Poll.

"Hey, they [top tier candidates] forfeited the game. They didn't get on the field because they didn't think they'd do well here and now, we're a contender," said Huckabee.

Woolson admitted to the Huffington Post, "We didn't spend more than $150,000 on the Straw Poll, while other candidates were spending millions."

Romney's team displayed an amazing array of organizational wonders including thousands of yellow t-shirts, air-conditioned tents, fans with spraying nozzles to cool off and lots of supporters.

The votes were being tabulated, the confetti swept up, and the handmade ice cream cones melting into a mirage of small tiny snowballs under emptying white tents when bus number 22 started filling up with about 35 active Republicans, including Madeline Conrad of Muscatine, who is settling in for the three hour trip back home.

"I'm a Romney supporter. He's the most qualified, and he just looks so presidential! And, his wife will make a beautiful first lady," said Conrad.

Conrad is one of 32,000 Iowans who trekked to Ames, participating in the Straw Poll by choosing their current favorite presidential candidate from a field of lower-tier contenders, with the exception of the Iowa and New Hampshire current leader, Mitt Romney.

Colorado's Representative Tom Tancredo earned a respectable 13.7% and may have enough fundraising skills to keep him in the race until the Iowa caucuses, the battle for the lower-tier GOP presidential viability has begun.

Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson's campaign manager hinted his candidate would most likely leave the field after a disappointing Straw Poll result of only 7.3% compared to insurgent candidate Texas Congressman Ron Paul with 9.1%.

California's Dan Hunter with 1.2% and businessman John Cox at 1% are also expected to bow out of the race even before the first real primary votes are cast.

This year's Straw Poll fell 8,000 short of their 1999 attendance figures though the media attendance broke all previous records with nearly 500 journalists credentialed for the day-long event.

Time columnist and longtime political journalist Joe Klein said, "This [Iowa Straw Poll] has become a contest for the number two spot. Mitt Romney is the only top candidate here."

Klein is rarely wrong.

The surprise second place showing for Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney's unsurprising win here doesn't mean this fluid Republican field is going to take on its permanent shape anytime soon.