Mitt Romney wins CPAC straw poll

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Mitt Romney is on a mission to convince conservatives that he really is one of them. But, is Romney's message getting through? Chip Reid reports.

Romney touts conservatism at CPAC
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has narrowly won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The Washington Times/CPAC straw poll results of 3,408 conservative activists showed Romney with the support of 38 percent of respondents. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was in second place at 31 percent.

When the results were announced, a packed ballroom erupted in both cheers and jeers as supporters of all four candidates sat in the room.

The other two candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul, came in third and fourth with 15 percent and 12 percent respectively.

Although he didn't win, Santorum had a relatively strong finish. The former Pennsylvania Senator is battling with Newt Gingrich to become the "conservative alternative" to Romney for the Republican nomination, while Paul's supporters lean Libertarian.

Romney's win, meanwhile, helps him make the argument that he is not insufficiently conservative for the Republican base. Romney has done well in the early states when he devotes a large amount of money and resources - such as Florida and New Hampshire - but has struggled in states where the electorate was dominated by conservatives, such as Iowa and South Carolina.

Despite Romney's win, a plurality at this conservative conference supported another candidate.

Roy and Barbara Dollard from New Jersey said before the results that they were supporting Romney but are "a little ambivalent."

Leroy, who didn't want to give his last name, supported Mitt Romney in 2008 but said "that was a different story." The Virginia resident said he didn't like Senator John McCain in that race.

The straw poll asked a series of questions, among them a respondent's vice presidential choice. Florida Senator Marco Rubio was the overwhelming favorite, with 34 percent support. No other person won double-digit support.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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