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With home-field advantage, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist placed first in an informal poll of 2008 presidential hopefuls at a Memphis Republican conference tonight.
The two-term Tennessee senator received 526 first-place votes, or 36.9 percent, at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference’s “straw poll” sponsored by Hotline, a political digest. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finished second with 14.4 percent and Sen. George Allen of Virginia finished third, tied with President Bush who cannot seek a third term. Frist was the only potential candidate who aggressively recruited delegates.
Republicans from 26 states participated. Those attending the conference all got a ballot with both Republican and Democratic contenders. Voting began 10 in the morning and the count was announced 8 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Peabody Hotel.
Some participants were reportedly upset that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice not on the ballot. Others were concerned that Rep. Tom Tancredo was not invited to the event.
There are only 10 people in each party on the list.
Sen. John McCain, a favorite in polls nationwide, threw his support to President Bush last night. McCain still received 4.4 percent of the vote. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas received 3.8 percent. Other write-ins – besides Bush and Rice, got 3 percent. George Pataki of New York received 2.7 percent of the votes, while Rice got 2.2 percent.
Sam Brownback received 1.5, Rudy Giuliani, 1.1, Newt Gingrich, 0.9 and Chuck Hagel 0.2.
Among second choices, Allen led with 18.4 percent, Romney with 12 percent and Giuliani with 12.