For the second year in a row, conservatives attending the annual CPAC conference in Washington D.C. have selected Rep. Ron Paul of Texas as the winner of their presidential straw poll.
Paul received 30 percent of the vote.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts came in second, with 23 percent of the vote. Romney, considered a frontrunner to win the GOP nomination for the 2012 race, was the victor in three consecutive CPAC straw polls before Paul’s victory last year.
Straw polls are very rarely indicators of presidential success. Just three times since 1976 have straw poll winners gone on to win the nomination -- and those were sitting presidents.
The selection of Paul – an isolationist, anti-war fiscal conservative who advocates for the dismantling of the Federal Reserve – as the attendees’ top choice to run for the White House signals a strong libertarian streak of many of the annual conference’s attendees, many of whom are students. Paul raised eye-popping sums on the web during his 2008 presidential run but almost certainly lacks the campaign organization and wide appeal with GOP primary voters to be a serious contender to win the nomination.
Just over 3,700 people cast votes in the poll, a record number of participants but still only about one-third of the conference's attendees. Almost one half of the participants in the poll were under 25, per organizers.
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Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- who has insisted that he will not run and did not attend the conference -- both received six percent of the vote.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich received five percent of the vote, along with Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty received four percent of the vote, as did Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Sarah Palin, who did not attend the confab, received three percent of the vote, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee received two percent.
The poll’s results are certain to be dismissed as irrelevant by presidential contenders who have been building the staff and infrastructure necessary for a serious run.
The announcement of the straw poll results prompted a prolonged celebration by Paul supporters in the conference's ballroom, mixed with loud boos from other attendees.
CPAC attendees voted in the poll throughout the three-day conference, choosing from among 15 potential GOP presidential contenders.
The confab attracted about 11,000 conservatives this year, including many students who embrace Paul’s message of small-government and individual liberty. On Friday, a packed ballroom cheered Paul’s remarks – which included an fierce indictment of the Fed and a strident call for the elimination of foreign aid.