Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took an early lead in the state's most populous counties, King and Pierce, in a straw poll conducted for the state Republican precinct caucuses.
In early returns, Romney had more than half the votes reported in Seattle and King County, and more than a third of the votes in Pierce County. He was leading in most of western Washington counties that had reported. In Eastern Washington, final results showed him with 60 votes in Adams County, which was about 58 percent of the ballots cast, and 281 votes, or 40 percent of those cast in Franklin County.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul had won Okanogan, Ferry, Pend Oreille, Pacific and Klickitat counties, which are less populous and have already turned in complete results. He was leading in Whitman and Asotin counties as well. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum took more than half the votes in Columbia County and finished four votes ahead of Paul in Lincoln County.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trails the field with about 11 percent of the votes statewide, and has not yet finished first in any county.
The straw poll results are based on a ballot caucus attendees were given as the arrived for the meetings. It doesn't award delegates to any of the candidates; that happens through a process that begins with the precinct caucuses and ends at the state convention in June.