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Evangelicals for Romney lowering expectations for SRLC straw poll

NEW ORLEANS -- The grassroots group Evangelicals for Romney has made a decent-sized splash here at the SRLC, with massive signs in the hall across from the ballroom, piggy banks with their slogans carved on the side ("Elect a president who won't break the bank!"), and a key banner placement in the background of the bar where Sean Hannity will film his show.

But while the group isn't talking about where its money came from, founder Nancy French told me that it bought "a couple hundred" tickets for supporters to come in and support Romney in the straw poll. I informed French that supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) have snagged more than 600 tickets.

"Oh, they're gonna kill us!" said French.

There are around 3600 SRLC attendees, and not all are participating in the straw poll, but I'm already running into Paul supporters who've arrived to back their candidate. And I wouldn't bet on vote-splitting between Paul and libertarian former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who's here testing the waters. Johnson, given the very last speaking slot of the day, drew less than 50 people in the room that Palin packed this morning.

There are, right now, two likely straw poll narratives. Either Paul wins and the poll is soft-pedaled, or Palin wins and the conference becomes her first big triumph with GOP activists -- albeit without Romney or Pawlenty asking for votes.

By David Weigel  |  April 9, 2010; 5:05 PM ET
Categories:  2012 Election , Mitt Romney , Ron Paul , SRLC , Sarah Palin  
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