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Paul Tops Romney in Poll of Conservatives

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) topped a field of 11 Republicans to win the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, with 31 percent of the vote.

Paul defeated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who won the poll the previous three years.

This year, Romney came in second with 22 percent of the vote.

Paul, who like Romney ran for president in 2008, received a strong reception during his speech Friday night at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

The annual CPAC straw poll asks attendees whom they would vote for in the 2012 Republican primary, and it is a rite of passage for those who want to win the support of the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

Nearly 2,400 registrants voted this year, according to Tony Fabrizio, whose firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates conducted the poll.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin came in third with 7 percent, followed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at 6 percent and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) at 5 percent.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Sen. John Thune (S.D.) were also in this year’s poll.

While the presidential straw poll is often a highlight of CPAC, the meeting did not focus on the 2012 election.

“We all have our eyes on a closer target,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said during his speech before the results of the straw poll were revealed, referring to this year’s midterm elections.

About half of those included in the straw poll attended CPAC, including Pence, Santorum, Pawlenty, Romney, Paul and Gingrich.

Paul won 13 percent of the vote in the 2009 straw poll.

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