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Palm Beach County straw poll: Mitt Romney 41%, Newt Gingrich 34%

Once upon a time, we used to largely ignore results of straw polls. They're not scientific. But then came Marco Rubio, who won them throughout the state -- a leading indicator at the time that the former House Speaker was loved enough by Republicans to beat the once-high flying Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2010 Senate race.

If last night's Palm Beach County straw poll is any indication, Mitt Romney is running neck and neck with Newt Gingrich in Florida. Romney captured 41 percent of the 178 ballots cast. Gingrich: 34 percent. The results come courtesy of WPTV.

It's not a big Romney win. But it's a win.

Of course, more Romney people could've showed up at the Palm Beach County GOP. He has been campaigning, essentially, since 2007, has a big network and great organization --unlike Gingrich, who has been a one-man band until recently, after skyrocketing to the top of the polls.

Romney is busy stripping the bark off Gingrich in Iowa. So is Ron Paul. As the negative messages sink in, the race will tighten.

Who says? Gary Johnson, the Republican presidential candidate who has been so snubbed in the debates that he's considering bolting the party to run as a Libertarian.

"Romney will probably win. He can go the distance," Johnson told us yesterday.

From WPTV:

“The polls are understating the fact that Romney has been on the ground for a very long time,” said Palm Beach County GOP Chair Sid Dinerstein. ”Newt, as you saw tonight has just found the ground.” Romney’s campaign had a county co-chair on hand to deliver remarks, as well as a table that boasted campaign literature.

“At the end of the day, we’re confident that Gov. Romney will be the  nominee,” said co-chair Melissa Nash.

The results may also indicate that Florida’s Republican primary could be a two-person race, although seven candidates are competing for the nomination.