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Chat away…you all are already buzzing about the Iowa straw poll — Mitt Romney dropped a lot of bucks to pull off the 31% win. The big news is that there was a huge drop in the number of participants in the poll, an indication that Iowa Republicans aren’t fired up by any of the occupants of the 2008 clown car.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, got 31.6 percent of the 14,302 ballots cast, compared with 18.1 percent for second-place finisher Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, 15.3 percent for Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, 13.7 percent for Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and 9.1 percent for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

The non-binding poll on Iowa State University’s campus was the equivalent of a political state fair for Republicans, as the candidates chartered hundreds of buses and provided food, T-shirts and entertainment–as well as the $35 per person admission fee–for thousands who entered the state GOP’s massive fundraiser.

…In many respects, the event appeared to be on a much smaller scale than the last straw poll eight years ago. The 14,302 total ballots cast was down substantially from the 23,685 cast at the last straw poll in 1999, potentially reflecting the unsettled field of Republican candidates as well as what polls have shown to be a large bloc of Iowa GOP voters undecided and dissatisfied with the current list of contenders.

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