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Ron Paul and Herman Cain lead the pack in Tea Party Patriots straw poll

U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks during the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit at the Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, in Phoenix. David Wallace,AP Photo/The Arizona Republic

Updated: 10:27am ET

Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain led a presidential straw poll among Tea Party members released on Sunday, with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin trailing in third place.

In the poll, which surveyed about 1,600 members of the Tea Party Patriots group at a convention in Phoenix, Paul led with 581 votes as the preferred Republican candidate to run against President Obama in the 2012 presidential election. (Paul, a libertarian favorite, also won a presidential straw poll at February's Conservative Political Action Conference.)

Cain, a Georgia businessman and conservative columnist, followed with 256 votes.

Sarah Palin came in third with 149 votes, and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is also considering a presidential bid, followed with 143 votes.

The poll was conducted over the weekend at the Tea Party Patriots' policy summit in Phoenix, which drew a crowd of more than 2,000 activists. Paul, Cain and Pawlenty all spoke at the event, but Palin did not attend.

If Palin mounts a presidential bid, many expect her to draw on the support of Tea Party members and groups. But the former Alaska governor has not yet announced a decision about whether or not she will jump into the 2012 presidential race, and a recent poll by the Des Moines Register shows a possible downturn in her popularity with likely Republican voters in Iowa - a key demographic for any contender.

According to the poll, Palin's popularity has generally ebbed over the course of the last 15 months - and while 65 percent of Iowa's likely GOP voters still view her positively (a drop from 71 percent in 2009), the intensity of their support has waned. In 2009, 27 percent of likely GOP voters in Iowa polled said they viewed Palin very favorably; in the recent survey, 18 percent said the same.

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