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Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, maintaining his position as an early favorite for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, won a Republican Party presidential straw poll at a meeting of Iowa party regulars Friday night.

The poll was taken in advance of the state's Republican Party convention starting Saturday.Of the 1,349 votes cast, Dole received 26.39 percent, finishing well ahead of former U.S. Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, who placed second with 15.19 percent. Texas Sen. Phil Gramm was third with 14.82 percent of the vote.

Dole, who did not appear at the meeting because of prior commitments, showed strength among Iowa Republicans, who wield considerable influence in presidential politics because of the early date of their state caucuses, which are scheduled for late January or early February, 1996.

"I think that what it shows is that Dole did what he had to do, and that he is in the best position of anybody," said Richard Schram, chairman of Iowa's Republican Party. "I don't know if saying he is the front-runner would be appropriate yet, though. There's still a long way to go."

Of the other presidential possibilities, former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp was fourth with 11.56 percent of the vote; former Defense Secretary Dick Chaney polled 9.64 percent; and former Vice President Dan Quayle finished with 6.7 percent.

Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan scored 5.11 percent; former drug policy czar William Bennett had 4.37 percent; former Transportation Secretary Lynn Martin polled 1.48 percent; and retired Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell received 0.96 percent of the vote.