Newt Gingrich
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won a straw poll hosted by the Tea Party Patriots. Reuters

Newt Gingrich's 15 minutes of fame seem to be fading, but he is still popular among at least one group: Tea Party supporters, who voted for him in a straw poll on Monday.

Gingrich got 31 percent of the vote in the straw poll, which was hosted by the Tea Party Patriots. He was followed closely by Michele Bachmann (28 percent), and then by Mitt Romney (20 percent) and Rick Santorum (16 percent). Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul and Rick Perry did not participate.

The results of the poll, in which 23,000 Tea Party supporters participated, were surprising in some respects.

Gingrich's support has been eroding nationally, largely because of concerns about his questionable record as speaker of the House, and one of the biggest Tea Party principles is opposition to Washington insiders -- but he won the poll in spite of that, beating out Bachmann, who began her presidential campaign as the Tea Party favorite.

Romney's comparatively low finish wasn't unexpected, as he has struggled throughout his campaign to win over Tea Party supporters, many of whom doubt his conservative credentials. It was, however, disappointing in light of recent endorsements from two prominent Tea Party politicians: Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and 2010 Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware.

It is difficult to say how much influence the Tea Party will have on the Republican nomination and on the general election next November. More Americans oppose the movement than support it, 27 percent to 20 percent: significantly worse than last year, when 27 percent supported it. But it is obvious that the principles the Tea Party has advanced still hold sway.

An overwhelming number of activists from around the nation showed they are serious about electing a candidate who advances Tea Party principles, Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, said in a statement after the straw poll.

The Tea Party Patriots do not usually endorse candidates, and Martin emphasized that Gingrich still had to prove his credentials.

Just as in 2010, candidates like Newt Gingrich will need to show they will be fiscally responsible and protect the Constitution in the White House, she said.