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Ben Farner hands out presidential straw poll voting forms during Tuesday's Republican caucuses at M State.

Santorum takes county - and state in local GOP caucuses

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The Republicans in Becker County want Rick Santorum as their next president -- and by an overwhelmingly large margin.

With Republican caucuses being held in Detroit Lakes, Wolf Lake and Frazee, those turning out for the straw vote favored Santorum with 159 votes, Mitt Romney with 44, Newt Gingrich with 39 and Ron Paul coming in last with 29 votes.

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Santorum also won the Minnesota straw poll. He took Missouri and Colorado in Tuesday's poll as well.

At the Frazee caucus, conservative and Christianity are what most who spoke out in favor of during discussion before the vote.

Several people spoke in favor of Santorum because of his Christianity, and against Romney because he is a Mormon. Michael Watchorn said that he himself is Mormon, but that's not necessarily the reason he supported Romney. Instead, he thought that Romney has a better chance of working with both the right wing and the left wing, than maybe Santorum could do being so far right and conservative.

He added that maybe the caucus wasn't the place to be discussing religion. Most disagreed though.

"Religion has been a part of every election," Bobby Cates said. "You can't take religion out of any (presidential) discussion."

And regardless of who someone thinks can get the most votes, Paul Larson said that shouldn't be a strategy at this point.

"Vote your conscience at this level," he said.

Though some members of the public spoke passionately about their pick for president, others chose not to speak at all, and yet others weren't overly enthusiastic about any of the candidates.

"I don't know that anyone is fired up about any one of them. We're stuck with the four we have," Chris Vinton said.

He spoke in favor of Santorum, adding that Romney would be a second choice for him.

"Gingrich scares the hell out of me, and Ron Paul, if he looked like Tom Selleck, he'd be doing a lot better," he said.

Bob Cummings also said he favored Santorum because of his "steadfast conservative history. I respect that."

Don Trieglaff said he's in the minority, but he was voting for Gingrich because the last time there was a balanced budget, Gingrich was "at the head of the helm."

Vinton said he doesn't trust Gingrich though because he was voted out by 80 percent when he served as Speaker of the House.

"My gut tells me he'll be impeached if elected," he added.

Regardless of who each voter favored, one thing was for sure, they are wildly against Barack Obama.

"If you can walk away from this meeting with something, it's that he's worried," Karen Cates said of Obama.

Worried, they said, that regardless of who the Republican candidate is, they will beat Obama in the next election because the people of the United States are tired of Obama and the damage he's caused in his three years thus far.

Those attending the caucuses also got the opportunity to write down any "wishes" they would like to relay to political leaders.

In Frazee, the voting came in at 15 votes for Santorum, 3 for Gingrich, 2 for Romney and 1 for Paul.

In Wolf Lake, votes came in at 46 for Santorum, 16 for Gingrich, 7 for Paul and 6 for Romney.

In Detroit Lakes, votes came in as 98 for Santorum, 36 for Romney, 21 for Paul and 20 for Gingrich.

The Becker County Republican Convention is scheduled for March 3 at 9 a.m. in the Detroit Lakes Holiday Inn.

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