WMUR and ABC News Team Up To Take The Pulse of Republican Granite State Insiders

VIDEO: Newt Gingrich on GMAPlayABCNEWS.com
WATCH Vote 2012 - The Challengers: Newt Gingrich

With just over a year until New Hampshire's crucial first in the nation presidential primary, potential Republican candidates have already started flocking to the Granite State. They're showing up in Manchester and Keene, Portsmouth and Concord. They're donating to local candidates, speaking to civic groups and getting to know the lay of the political landscape.

So, what do some of the most experienced and influential Republicans in the state think about them?

On Saturday, January 22, ABC News and WMUR-TV are teaming up for a first ever "straw poll" sanctioned by the New Hampshire Republican State Committee to see just what kind of buzz these 2012 candidates have among the party faithful.

This Saturday, the 493 members of the New Hampshire Republican party will gather at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire for their annual meeting. While there, each one of these party members will be able to anonymously choose the candidate they'd like to see as the party's nominee for 2012.

"We are proud of the First in the Nation tradition in New Hampshire and are happy to be participating in a poll that could likely give us the earliest indication of which candidates Granite State Republicans are watching the closest," said Alisha McDevitt, WMUR's News Director.

The latest polling shows 2008 runner-up, ex- Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, as the front-runner in '12. But, just how deep is that support among the GOP worker-bees who help these candidates fundraise and organize their campaigns in the state? Have newcomers like ex-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Senator John Thune been able to make an impression? And, of course, where does ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin fit in to all of this?

Of course no Republican can ignore the state's significant independent vote. Independent voters are expected to make up roughly 40 percent of the Republican primary electorate.

Even so, this early stage of the process the views of the state's most sophisticated and influential Republican operatives can give us some insights to the potentials – and pitfalls - for the growing cast of White House wannabes.

Results are expected Saturday afternoon. Make sure to follow ABC News Political Director Amy Walter (@amyewalter) and ABCNews.com as well as WMUR online political editor James Pindell at WMURPoliticalScoop.com for the latest news and analysis