ABC News Political Director Amy Walter reports: In the first ever "straw poll" of New Hampshire Republican party committee members sponsored by ABC News and WMUR and sanctioned by the state Republican party, ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took 35 percent of the 276 valid ballots cast. This is just 3 percent more than Romney took in the 2008 GOP primary, when he finished in second place behind Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Coming in a distant second was Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, with 11 percent. Paul took 8 percent in the 2008 GOP primary. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is spending the early part of next week in the Granite State, came in third with 8 percent. In fourth place was ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has yet to visit the first-in-the-nation-primary state, with 7 percent. This is by no means a scientific sample, but it was a good early canvass of the sentiments of the state's most active Republican voters. The "straw poll" was open only to the 426 registered members of the Republican committee, and 65 percent of those commitee members participated. The take away: Romney's still the solid frontrunner here, but there's plenty of room for another Republican to break through here. Pawlenty's showing was also impressive, given how new he is to the scene. He has, however, been working New Hampshire, as have his suporters.
The Republican committee members were also asked to pick the issue that was the "most important for the Republican nominee to focus upon": Reducing the size of the federal government: 49 percent Reducing the size of federal debt/deficit 15 percent Stimulating the economy to create jobs; 14 percent Repealing health care: 7 percent