BOISE -- The Idaho Republican Party says Congressman Ron Paul of Texas has won its first-ever presidential straw poll.

The party says nearly 400 people from across the state cast votes in the poll, which took place Friday night at the Riverside Hotel in Boise.

Paul came in first with 173 votes. He was followed by Mitt Romney, with 135 votes. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was a distant third, with 47 votes.

The cost to cast a vote in the non-binding poll was $30, which has raised questions about the poll's true representative nature.

However, Idaho Republican Party Executive Director Jonathan Parker has said the goal of the event is to get the candidates to come to Idaho and court voters before the GOP caucuses March 6.

The state Republican party also has moved up its presidential primary from late May to early March in hopes of making Idaho's 32 delegates more valuable in the nominating process.

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