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Paul wins yet another straw poll

Congressman Ron Paul won yet another straw poll today, receiving an astounding 82% of the Iowan-only vote at National Federation of Republican Assemblies first ever-presidential straw poll. 

The Paul campaign has showed a tendency to make an effort above and beyond other campaigns to organize around straw polls. For this event, his campaign bought a large number of straw-poll tickets and sold them to supporters for half off the price, just $10.

Alex Moe/NBC News

Rep. Ron Paul speaks to a crowd of hundreds at the NFRA convention. Paul's supporters left when he concluded speech, leaving many empty chairs for other speakers, including Mrs. Anita Perry.

When Paul spoke just after 9:00 am CT, the room was packed with several hundred people. As soon as the Texas representative finished his remarks, there was a mass exodus from the ballroom at the Polk County Convention Complex.

“He has a pretty loyal following and he brought a lot of people in and that’s what they were here for,” Herman Cain supporter and Monroe, Iowa resident Chris Holub told NBC News after the event.

Paul has won a fair share of these small straw polls across the country during the presidential cycle by using the same tactics witnessed today – providing tickets at reduced costs and encouraging people to turn out at events leading up to the poll. 

Cain, whose Iowa campaign also bought tickets for supporters but distributed fewer than the Paul campaign, placed second in the straw poll. Cain received 14% of the Iowan-only vote. NBC’s Anthony Terrell reports the Cain campaign bought 250 tickets and were selling them at the cost of $20, according to an email obtained by NBC News.

But Cain's campaign appeared unable to distribute all of the tickets. During the straw poll, an aide held an envelope with a large amount of free tickets.

Paul, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s wife, Anita, addressed the crowd while former speaker Newt Gingrich sent a video message. Organizers said Cain sent a video message later in the afternoon after voting had concluded to share with the audience.

After Paul and Cain, Santorum received 1% of the Iowan-only vote followed by Gingrich with 0.9%, Michele Bachmann and Perry with 0.5%, and Gary Johnson with .2%. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman finished at 0%. 

”This country needs to wake up and quit lying to itself whether it’s on the economics or the foreign policy,” Paul told the crowd of roughly 300 people when the convention opened this morning. The crowd dwindled to about 100 after Paul spoke. “What we need is a healthy does of renewal of the spirit of liberty,” he said amidst loud cheers from supporters in the audience.

When Santorum took the stage, he told those who remained that the media was trying to “Huckabee” him and paint him as a social conservative.

“Well, as far as I’m concerned, bring it on,” he said. “I will take every single one of those. I am not ashamed to stand up for life, or family, or faith because they are the foundation of our society.”

It’s unclear, however, why being painted as “Huckabee,” if that were the case, would be a negative in Iowa. Entrance polls in 2008 indicated 60% of GOP caucus goers considered themselves evangelicals.

The First Lady of Texas wrapped up the list of speakers during the morning session. She focused her brief remarks on highlighting her husband’s record, calling him “the conservative leader that America needs.”

“He has taken an unwavering stand in defense of life,” Perry told the crowd just before she listed various bills he signed into law as governor. “For Rick, being pro-life is not a matter of campaign convenience” -- a veiled swipe at Romney -- “it is a core conviction.”

The group’s President Rod Martin told NBC News it wanted to hold this straw poll in Iowa to help retain the state’s importance.

“Not every good candidate starts with a lot of money,” Martin said, “and we want them to be able to be vetted by the people of Iowa.”