LOS ANGELES — Texas congressman Ron Paul won the California Republican straw poll Saturday after making several speeches at the GOP state convention, officials announced.
The presidential hopeful drew 374 out of 833, or 44.9 percent, ballots, Tom Del Beccaro, California Republican Party chairman announced at the GOP state convention. Ballots were cast by party members, associated members and registered guests, who could choose among 11 candidates.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry came in second, with 244 votes, or 29.3 percent.
The rest of the field of 11, which included write-ins for the first time:
- Mitt Romney (74, 8.8 percent)
- Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (64, 7.7 percent)
- Jon Huntsman (17, 2.0 percent)
- Herman Cain (15, 1.8 percent)
- Newt Gingrich (14, 1.7 percent)
- Thad McCotter (7, 0.8 percent)
- Rick Santorum (7, 0.8 percent)
- Gary Johnson (2, 0.2 percent)
- Fred Karger (1, 0.1 percent)
- Write-ins (15, 1.8 percent)
Paul drew supportive crowds for several speaking appearances at the state party convention the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles.
"I think the main purpose of our Constitution and political action should be the preservation of liberty," Paul told delegates Saturday, which was Constitution Day.
Among his other remarks, according to NBC News:
"We've lived in the country that has the maximum amount of freedom and the maximum amount of prosperity," he said at a breakfast speech delivered to the Los Angeles County Lincoln Clubs, "and yet we have allowed ourselves to go into debt."
Paul called for the audit and eventual dismantling of the Federal Reserve, and charged the Obama administration with weakening the dollar by directing large sums of money outside of the United States.
"This crisis going on in Europe is connected to us, and our dollar," Paul said, noting Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was in Poland Friday to take part in meetings with European finance ministers.
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"Geithner's already over in Europe, promising to bail out the banks once again, at our expense."
At a noontime speech to 500 organized by the Republican Liberty Caucus of California, Paul elaborated on his dislike for international agreements in matters of national security.
"The position we should have is no entangling alliances," Paul said, adding, "We shouldn't be in NATO." The comment was met with applause.
"Why not just go to war if it's a declared war, and forget about all the rest of them?" he continued. It was a reference to America's involvement in Libya — a NATO mission — and a criticism of American presidents dating from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
"We haven't had a declared war since World War Two," Paul said, "but we've fought a few of them, obviously."
When Paul vowed to bring troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the room erupted in cheers.
Many of the supporters, in their twenties and thirties, were dressed in T-shirts and stood out in a sea of grey business suits. A young couple told NBC it had recently abandoned the Democratic Party.
"Both of us voted for Obama in 2008," said Monica Wattana, an emergency care doctor.
"We kind of fell for the, 'Change We Can Believe In,' " said her husband, Brian Wilson, an engineer. He laughed.
The couple says it dreams of an end to America's wars and a slowed pace of inflation. "It hasn't happened," said Monica.
Bachmann, who won the Iowa Republican straw poll on Aug. 13, addressed the California convention on Friday evening.
Bachmann reiterated the core vows of her stump speeches — repealing President Obama’s health care law, striking down the Dodd-Frank banking regulations, and opening up exploration of domestic energy sources.
"As president, I will not rest until we repeal ObamaCare," Bachmann told the convention, describing the health-care law as a symbol a federal government grown too large.
Politico said it was not clear how much effort each of the other candidates put into winning the poll.
Jamie Novogrod, NBC News producer, contributed to this report.