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Ron Paul Wins CPAC Straw Poll

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Ron Paul, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon


Updated at 6:44 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON - For the second year in a row, libertarian Congressman Ron Paul won the unofficial presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference. As CPAC organizers announced the results, the Texas Republican's young supporters jumped to their feet and cheered, while some in the audience sat quietly resigned and others shook their head in exasperation.

Paul was boosted by organizations affiliated with the libertarian icon, which gave some financial assistance for his college-age supporters to attend the conference. Paul's supporters made up a significant portion of the approximately 11,000 attendees at the event this week and made waves by butting heads with the social conservatives and neoconservatives present.

The Texas Republican made a splash in the 2008 Republican primary by gaining the fervent support of libertarians but ultimately won minimal support.

Paul won 30 percent of the 3,742 votes cast in the straw poll. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in second place with 23 percent.

About half of the votes were cast by CPAC attendees between the ages of 18 and 25. Fifty-six percent said they were generally satisfied with the names that have been floated as possible GOP presidential candidates; 43 percent said they wished there was a stronger field of contenders.

CPAC attendees are much younger and more libertarian than the Republican party in general -- thanks, in part, to Paul's supporters. CPAC chairman David Keene commended Paul for attracting young people to the Republican party.

"I'm not a Ron Paul supporter, but he energized kids," he said. "And I want those kids, because they believe in most of the things I believe."

"People here argue about every damn thing you can think about, and that's part of this movement," he continued. "The result is a more energized, bigger, more effective" conservative movement.

There were 15 Republican candidates in all listed on the straw poll - including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has emphatically said he's not running for president in 2012. Christie tied for third place in the poll, at 6 percent, with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

Christie did not attend CPAC, nor did former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who won 3 percent of the straw poll vote. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also absent, won 2 percent of the vote.

Paul wasn't the only Republican at the event to run an active campaign for the straw poll - Rep. Michele Bachmann, head of the House Tea Party Caucus, passed out Bachmann jerseys and beer Thursday night in an apparent attempt to gain support. Bachmann won 4 percent of the vote.

Among the other candidates listed on the straw poll, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won 5 percent of the vote. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty won 4 percent, as did Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Conservative media personality Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania Gov. Rick Santorum and South Dakota Sen. John Thune all won 2 percent. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour won 1 percent, as did former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.

There were also write-in campaigns for other potential candidates, such as businessman and entertainer Donald Trump -- who pointedly remarked this week at CPAC that Ron Paul "cannot get elected." Openly gay Republican Fred Karger also ran a write-in campaign.