Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) won a White House straw poll Saturday by the narrowest of margins at the end of the three-day Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.
According to Wilson Research Strategies, the Republican polling firm that ran the straw poll, Romney received 439 votes from registered conference attendees, or 24 percent. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), finished just a vote behind, and also took 24 percent.
The battle for third place was almost as close, with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) capturing 330 votes for 18 percent, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) taking 321 votes for 18 percent.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) took 4 percent. House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), who addressed the convention Saturday, took 3 percent, as did Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R). Ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) clocked in at 2 percent, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R) had 1 percent.
The vote followed three days of speeches from a host of Republican and conservative leaders and presidential wannabes. Embattled National Republican Committee Chairman Michael Steele was among the speakers Saturday. According to media accounts, he apologized for some of the distractions at the RNC that have made headlines in recent weeks, and said, “Let’s tune out all the background noise and go on offense.”