Washington (CNN) – Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a stalwart foe of government spending, won a blowout victory Saturday in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll.
With participants naming "reducing the size of federal government" as their top issue, the 74-year old libertarian hero captured 31 percent of the nearly 2,400 votes cast in the annual contest, usually seen as a barometer of how the GOP's conservative wing views their potential presidential candidates.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finished second with 22 percent of the vote, ending a three-year winning streak at CPAC. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin finished third with 7 percent of the vote, followed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at 6 percent and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence at 5 percent.
They were followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who tied at 4 percent. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour rounded out the results.
Five percent of participants voted for "Other" and six percent were undecided.
The announcement of Paul's win, a surprise victory unlikely to have a major impact on the 2012 presidential contest, drew a volley of loud boos from the CPAC audience.
That discontent could be seen in the poll results: A majority of participants said they wished the Republican Party had a better field of candidates to choose from.
But Paul's victory might be seen, in part, as a result of his support among anti-establishment Tea Party activists who turned out in force at this year's conference expressing some frustration with the Republican Party.
Reflecting the college atmosphere of the annual event, young people dominated the voting: 54 percent of participants were between the ages of 18 and 25.
The poll also contained a bit of bad news for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who made an under-the-radar appearance at CPAC late Friday.
Participants were asked to rate their opinions of several top political figures, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner, both of whom received a majority favorable rating.
But Steele was the only Republican to garner an upside down rating, with 44 percent giving him an unfavorable rating and 42 percent viewing him favorably.
It’s no surprise Romney finished a strong second.
Mitt Romney can win 2008 blue states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Florida.
Republicans would be wise to coalesce around him.
If the Republicans want to take back the White House, Ron Paul is the only candidate who can do it.
CNN and the liberal media would LOVE to get Ron Paul nominated. An old, washed-up, out of touch centrist that young people will NEVER vote for. No thanks, CNN. We're going for a young, Right-of-Center guy to go head to head with YOUR candidate. Read and delete this I don't care. You've read it at least.
This is no suprise. Ron Paul is who the people really want. If Romney won, the media would be tripping all over themsleves with phony stories. They are out of touch with the people.
We don't want the Patriot Act or endless, unconstitutional wars. We don't want big governement. The Neo-Cons want more mores which equals bigger government.
Dr Paul is a hero of the Constitution..........
To reform is not to conserve. He's got my vote. As long as he's not conservative.
This is confirmation that CPAC was joke. The republican party holds Paul in such high esteem that the blocked him from the debates last election.
This guy makes McCain look young, too.
While I don't agree with everything Ron Paul says or stands for, he does seem to have the lowest score on the "crazy, out-of-touch and just plain dumb" scale that most of the Republican party is on.
It's refreshing that many rank and file Repubs support Paul, but his refusal to put the interests of a small, Middle Eastern so-called "ally" over those of his native land has earned him pariah status among GOP kingmakers and financiers. That will never change, no matter how much sense he makes.
Considering that only 2,400 out of the 10,000 attendees were polled, this means nothing...especially when the rank and file conservatives openly state that Ron Paul is nothing short of a nutty squirrel who has absolutely no traction among Republicans or Conservatives...only fringe liberalitarians (not a typo).
But the article is right: there won't be much effect on who the GOP ultimately nominates for 2012. But stubbornly ignoring Paul, as they did in 2008, will lose them a large number of votes and, likely, the election.
"The announcement of Paul's win, a surprise victory unlikely to have a major impact on the 2012 presidential contest, drew a volley of loud boos from the CPAC audience."
Ok, let me see if I understand this. The Republicans vote in a straw poll at CPAC, Ron Paul wins the poll, then Republicans boo the announcement? Seems George W. Bush is definitely the poster child for Republicans: they are not quite all there.
Just goes to show ya how disgusted America is with D.C.! Need to get rid of the incumbent career politicians! Take Michigan, for example, this state has been struggling forever, and their Congressman has held office since 1955!
I know Ron Paul has been around awhile. But at least he wants government to spend less money, which is the REAL problem
Wow. 7 whole percent of her BASE think she is capable of being President. Just wow.
How's that Republican support working for you Mr Steele, Are you feeling the LOVE?
BTW Tea Party in NAHUNTA, Ga. , hope to see you there.
It's time for open-minded people or "liberals" as this group refers to us to fight back.
Who are these one thought conservatives to tell the majority of the country how to think and what we should do? Most Americans are moderates. most Americans believe in giving the benefit of the doubt and are willing to accpet that others views have values. This is certianly not the thinking of this group at CPAC or at the Tea Party meeting.
Stand up for yourselves and fight back agianst these hateful speeches
Way to go Dr. Paul! Maybe there is a place for common sense in the current toxic political scene. His unwavering and consistent message is gaining traction. It's sad to hear the neocons booed him, but the era of warmongering in the republican party has to end or we will be stuck with the even worse constitution denying liberals and their big government pie in the sky utopian tax the hell out of us dreams. Obama is an empty suit just like Romney and his neocon pals. Elect a real President who isn't a Wall Street puppet next time around America! Ron Paul 2012!
Good for you Mr. Ron Paul sir. We need to quit fighting right or left and change only whats broken.