Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) easily won the Illinois Straw Poll Saturday as the state’s Republicans showed their preference for their party’s presidential nomination to oppose President Barack Obama.
The Illinois Straw Poll was originally the idea of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park). Kirk announced the plan Feb. 6 in an effort to give Illinois Republicans a greater voice in the presidential nominating process.
“Illinois can play a role in the presidential selection process with this straw poll,” Kirk said Saturday at the Wheeling Township Republican Headquarters in Arlington Heights. The site is one of 20 straw polling places around the state.
With Illinois’s primary set March 20, Kirk was afraid the state may not have much influence picking the Republican nominee. Voters will begin making choices in Iowa Jan. 3 and New Hampshire Jan. 10.
“Illinois is usually a flyover between Iowa and New Hampshire,” Kirk said. “To have a straw poll one year to the day (of the presidential election) gives Illinois voters a voice in the nominating process.”
Kirk has yet to endorse any of the Republican candidates and has no immediate plans to name a choice. Though he would not disclose his vote, Kirk cast a ballot online earlier this week. Voting began Oct. 29.
“I was worried about numbers but now I’m not,” Kirk said. More than 5,000 people had voted online by 10 a.m. Saturday according to Kirk.
Paul took 52 percent of the votes cast both on line through the week and in person Saturday in 20 locations throughout the state. Georgia businessman Herman Cain was second (18 %), former Massachusetts Mitt Romney third (14 %), and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich fourth (9 %).
Far behind were Texas Gov. Rick Perry (2.5 %), former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (1.5 %), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (1.1 %).