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.
Ron Paul the 2012 GOP nominee...
Now does anymore need to be said about these tea baggers???
I think Ron Paul will be a good president for the United States.He makes good and genuine sense when it comes to matters affect the US.
Well their normal stars should idiotic. All that destruction and evilness they put out there and Ron Paul the most level headed sensible one wins the poll. That should tell them that their strategity to disrupt government and to say no to any and everything no matter how good it will be for the people whom they are there to represent is kinda back firing on them.
IF, and just IF since I don't think he has any real chance, Ron Paul becomes the candidate of the Republicans in 2012, then we'll watch a great dispute of different sets of ideas to improve this country.
But unfortunately, because he has some IDEAS (that I disagree with the most of them) instead of being a parrot is the reason as to why I don't think he will be the candidate.
Whether Palin came in third or thirtieth... I'm still totally astounded she was even a honorable mention. What a bunch of chodes. What is going on in this country? She's not even in the same league as these others.
Democrats hate Mitt Romney because of his perfect hair and good looks. And some bigoted republicans hate him because of his religion. I think that people should start looking at the substance of a candidate before they start "shooting them down".
Romney has been successful in business, as governor and working with the 2002 Olympics. Almost everything he touches turns to gold. That is the person I want running our country.
If Ron Paul gets the nomination for the GOP I might consider voting for a republican agin, if not I will continue to vote democrat. I
Yet another "barometer" of the idiocy of the Conservatives. Do they realize that Paul is an advocate for the legalization of drugs and prostitution, which I personally don't have a problem with, but how will that hold up to their Christian Conservative beliefs?
Ok ... now tell me, in words of one syllable, why the GOP didn't select Ron Paul as their candidate before? Or have the conservatives picked another "pure" conservative that can not be elected in a general election?
Mitt might have a chance but if Palin can only poll 7% among conservatives ... and Pawlenty even less ... just who will the GOP pick as a candidate. I notice Jindal and McDonnell didn't even make the cut!
I love Ron Paul because he is anti-repulican establishment. I must say that as an Obama supporter, I considered Paul in the Primaries just because the McCains, Romneys, and Thompsons, "dissed" him so bad and he provided a true refreshing perspective on approaching things like Iraq and the Fed.
I believe that most Democrats share my support of Ron Paul.
If the Republican Party wants to be a respectable party they need to throw those Fascist bumbs out! Ron Paul is a true Conservative Republican. Ron Paul 2012!
Ron Paul, you know, I like him and he is making a LOT of sense when you listen to what he has to say. Out of all the Conservative contenders he may be the man to do what needs to be done. The liberals cannot really attack him on anything, he is against the wars, he wants to focus on American citizens, oooops, I guess that may clench it.
Out of all Republicans and Conservatives, I dislike Ron Paul the least.
With the understanding that it is more than a bit unlikely that I would vote for him:
At least Ron Paul isn't an absolute CRAZY... He IS more "Conservative" for my taste, in some areas, but, again, not a pure nut job.
I could live with him as our President.
RON PAUL IS A SMART MAN WITH GREAT IDEAS
However, the Republican-GOP is not interested in great ideas and practical solutions for restoring middle-class prowess. GOP is only interested riding the anger generated by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Tea Party Obama-Haters.
Therefore, we can expect the vitriolic hate-mongering Republicans to spew green anger on each other, while President Obama gets a bigger margin of victory in 2012.
Amazing and amusing.
That's the first time in the history of the CPAC Straw Poll that all three of the first, second and third place winners would split the Republican coalition apart if they actually got the nomination. None of them will be the 2012 GOP candidate.
Paul's anti-government rhetoric sounds good to the GOP base as long as he's talking about getting rid of taxes and government regulations on business. But as soon as he starts talking about de-criminalizing pot, allowing same sex couples to do whatever they want, dismantling the American Empire, and holding Israel accountable for its treatment of palestinians he's lost both the social conservatives and the foreign policy hawks.
Romney looks great with his shiny teeth, but as soon as somebody reminds the base that he's a Mormon, the Evangelicals will be out the door. And the fact that Romneycare in Mass is virtually identical to Obamacare will make it hard for him to run against Obama's health care insurance reforms.
Palin? Nominating her would hammer the last nail in the Republican Party coffin, relegating it to permanent minority status as a regional populist party. Since everybody at the RNC knows this, I'm pretty sure she'll never get near the nomination. In fact, a deal will probably be cut for her where she's virtually guaranteed the VP slot again, so long as she stays away from the leadership convention.
All of this leads me to believe that the GOP presidential candidate in 2012 will be none of these people, and will probably be Bob McDonnell. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
Wow!! 2 years ago they laughed at him!!!!
Dismantle this monsterous federal goverment. Goodbye SS. Goodbye EPA. Goodbye Dept. of Ed. Hello sovereign States and hello freedom. Let fiscally liberal states suffer while SC, LA, OK and other frugal States shine.
Robo-Romney is still a joke. Congratulations, Ron Paul!
My choice for the next Republican Presidential nominees –Mitt Romney MA–and Senator Brown (MA) this ticket will be a winner!
I admire about half of the issues Ron Paul espouses. His views on the other half scare the H-LL out of me!!! If I had to choose right now....I'm very impressed with Gov Huckabee!!!!
but the man would be 76 years old when he took office (if elected). We need to put an UPPER age limit on presidential candidates. I guess, though, given the abysmal crop of younger Republicans, they're desperate. Palin/Jindal, anyone??!!
Ron Paul 2012!
Ron Paul is an isolationist, with a dog-eat-dog, every person for themselves attitude.
He naively believes a totally unfettered free market always makes the best decisions, and if millions of people suffer in the process, so be it.
He would never win a national election.
But then again, he'd split the Republican vote – so go for it!