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Ron Paul takes latest Des Moines presidential straw poll

GOP presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) ran away with the National Federation of Republican Assemblies Straw Poll on Saturday in Des Moines, garnering 82 percent of the vote among Iowans.

Businessman Herman Cain came in second with 14 percent. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry each got 1 percent or less. Former Utah Gov. Jon Hunstman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received no votes.

It was clear from the beginning of the event the majority of attendees came to see Paul, who spoke first. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum also spoke at the event, while former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich addressed the crowd briefly by video.

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Ron Paul speaking at NFRA in Des Moines (Andrew Duffelmeyer/Iowa Independent).

Paul got a warm reception from the audience of several hundred, saying what the country needs is less government intrusion, more openness in government, a focus on dealing with the national debt and a foreign policy overhaul.

The federal government has invaded peoples’ lives, Paul said, especially through the Patriot Act. He called for repealing the law put in place following 9/11, saying it undermines liberty.

He also wants investigations into the federal reserve, the war in Iraq, the Fast and Furious operation and government loans to Solyndra.

“If there’s any one thing that would benefit us, it is to get more openness in government,” Paul said.

On foreign policy Paul delivered a strong anti-war message, calling United States foreign policy “deeply flawed” and saying “it’s time for us to come home and mind our own business.”

And on the economy, Paul said lowering the national debt, cutting the budget and auditing the federal reserve would go a long way toward putting the country back on track.

“This country needs to wake up and quit lying to itself, whether it’s on the economics or the foreign policy,” he said. “What we need is a healthy dose of renewal of the spirit of liberty.”

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Rick Santorum at NFRA straw poll in Des Moines (Andrew Duffelmeyer/Iowa Independent).

A small crowd of about 50 remained by the time Santorum spoke about an hour later. He said the 2012 election is about “the heart and soul of America,” and described himself as a candidate that can win, can govern and can be trusted. He also attacked President Obama on a number of fronts, saying he’s hurt America’s security, expanded government and undermined the family.

“It is an election about whether we’re going to be a free people who believe in limited government, who believe in the free enterprise system, who believe in the dignity of human life, who believe in the central building block of our society which is the family,” he said.

President Rod Martin described the NFRA as believing in “a more libertarian strand” of conservatism than the Republican Party as a whole. The tagline for the group is “the Republican wing of the Republican Party.”

“We believe our country has been overrun by people who don’t share those values, and we think it’s time to give them the pink slips they’ve been giving all of us,” Martin said.

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