From this article it sounds like Santorum was the only possible GOP presidential candidate at the dinner, that attendees were mostly Republican establishment, and that about a third of them voted in the straw/dinner poll. Santorum may have attended the dinner and the debate the night before, and received the most votes, but even Sarah Palin describes him as a "knuckle dragging Neanderthal." Coming in 2, 3, and 4 in the poll were Romney, Cain, and Trump. Romney gets votes just for being GOP establishment waiting his 'turn', like Dole and McCain. Cain was at the debate the night before so it's good he came in #3. Donald Trump was apparently not at the dinner, nor the debate the night before, and isn't an embedded politician. Therefore, I thought it was interesting he came in #4.
5/7/11, "South Carolina Republicans reward Santorum," Politico, Ben Smith
"A straw poll of Republican activists at last night's South Carolina Republican Party dinner rewarded Rick Santorum for showing up at the dinner, and did not reward Tim Pawlenty for showing up at the previous evening's debate in the state. About a third of the guests, who represented the core of the state's GOP Establishment, voted in the poll.
With 408 votes cast, state party communications director Joel Sawyer sends over this tally:
Alan West 3
Paul Ryan 1"
2/10/11, "CPAC: Top US conservatives cheer Trump as rivals spar," BBC
"Ms Palin, one of the most popular and closely watched conservative figures in the country, did not attend, citing a scheduling conflict.
In a sign of intra-party strife that is likely to build as the party nomination fight heats up, Mr Santorum suggested Ms Palin was skipping the conference because she would not be getting paid.
But speaking on Fox News on Wednesday night, Ms Palin suggested Mr Santorum was "uninformed" and called him a "knuckle-dragging Neanderthal"."...