RUN, NEWT, RUN….I find it hard to believe Dems would get this lucky in ’08, but these results are encouraging anyway (via Stakeholder).

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the easy winner of a straw poll Friday night that tested 2008 presidential candidate support at the Minnesota Republican Party state convention. Gingrich got about 40 percent of the 540 votes cast, putting him far ahead of Virginia’s Sen. George Allen, who got about 15 percent. Next were Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Arizona Sen. John McCain, each with about 10 percent.

“This shows activists think that Gingrich has the cachet to help set and drive the conservative agenda, just as he did when he led the Republican takeover of the House in 1994,” said Tony Sutton, a Gingrich supporter and secretary-treasurer of the party. “He and Ronald Reagan were the two most important conservatives in the last 30 years.”

The results also confirm once again that party activists are considerably more conservative than Republican voters and the public in general.

That last point seems particularly noteworthy. Early national polls for ’08 are testing little more than name recognition. While these state straw polls are hardly scientific, they do reflect a problem for which “front-runners” like McCain and Giuliani have not yet crafted a solution: they have a long way to go before they convince the GOP base that they’re conservative enough to be the Republican nominee.

As for the former House Speaker’s possible interest, he’s been traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire quite a bit, and he has a new book coming out: “Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future.”

Run, Newt, run.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.