AMES, Iowa – Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won an easy and expected victory in a high-profile Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll on Saturday, claiming nearly twice as many votes as his nearest rival.
Romney had been expected to win the test because he spent millions of dollars and months of effort on an event that was skipped by two of his major rivals.
Announcement of the results was delayed for 90 minutes because a hand count was required on one of the 18 machines.
The biggest loser of the evening likely was former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who finished in 6th place with 1,039 votes. He had said repeatedly that if he didn't finish in the top two his campaign was likely to end. He left the event before the results were announced, and there was no announcement from his campaign.
The missing big names got only a handful of votes.
Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee got 203 votes. He was on the ballot, although not an officially declared candidate.
Romney claimed the prize he had spent so much effort to win.
"The people of this great state have sent a message to the rest of the country," said Romney. "Change starts in Iowa."
Huckabee said his showing was impressive because he had little money to spend.
"You have taken a minimum amount of resources and made a maximum amount of gain," Huckabee told backers.