CHAMPAIGN — Although only 116 votes were cast locally, the treasurer of the Champaign County Republican Party said the state party's first-ever online and in-person straw poll was a success.
In Champaign County in-person voting, Herman Cain was the winner with 46 percent of the vote, followed by Mitt Romney with 19 percent, Newt Gingrich with 16 percent and Ron Paul with 9 percent. Rick Perry got 7 percent, Jon Huntsman received 2 percent and Rick Santorum got 1 percent. Michele Bachmann failed to get a vote.
Statewide, Paul won the overall vote with 52 percent. He got 66.5 percent of the online vote but only 8 percent of the in-person vote. Conversely, Romney got 7 percent of the online vote statewide but 35 percent of the in-person vote. Cain got 15 percent of the online vote and 29 percent of the in-person ballots cast.
"I was there all day, from 9 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.), and it was really more about getting our people excited and getting volunteer names, and making sure that people know they can make a difference," said Habeeb Habeeb, treasurer of the local Republican Party, one of the few in the state to host in-person voting at its headquarters. "The biggest thing that hit me was that while only 2 1/2 percent of the voters were African-American, and yet Cain got 46 percent. It heartens me. I like getting the feeling that we're debunking the idea that America factors in race as much as it used to. There are still people that do that, but here he gets almost 46 percent and they're almost exclusively white voters. But he got more than double the next two (Romney and Gingrich)."
Habeeb said some voters probably "were rallying to his side because people were attacking him, kind of like the Clarence Thomas syndrome."
"But I hear that a lot of people like his charisma and the fact that he stands up and speaks and answers people back. A lot of people told us they were voting for Cain."
Whether voting in person or online, those participating in the straw poll had to donate at least $5, to be split between the state and local Republican parties.
"The 116 (in-person voters) seemed low to me but to the people who know — why would you come out for a straw poll and pay five bucks on top of that to support the party? — they said we were very strong. That's another victory, I think," he said.
Some local Republican candidates, or their representatives, also were at the party headquarters passing candidate petitions, Habeeb said.
"Most people stayed around to talk. It was really good. Most people didn't just walk in and walk out like in the general elections. They walked in excited, happy to see our new headquarters, happy to vote and happy to talk. One guy came in with two other people and they stayed for an hour, just chatting," he said. "We saw a lot of people we don't see at our central committee meetings. That's a good sign."
Habeeb, who last week endorsed Romney, said he was not surprised by the results of the Champaign County voting.
"The only three I really hear about are Cain, Romney and Gingrich," he said. "My own impression is that Ron Paul won the state because his people are very organized about showing up for these things."