Ron Paul Wins Early Conservative Poll

Updated at 8:02 p.m. ET

Rep. Ron Paul won the most support for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination in an unofficial straw poll of conservative activists attending an annual conference.

A libertarian from Texas who has railed against spending and the Federal Reserve, Paul won the Saturday contest at the Conservative Political Action Conference with 31 percent backing. He has sought the presidential nomination in the past and attracted a following among a segment of voters frustrated with Washington.

Participants cheered as their favored candidates' names were announced. Some members of the audience cheered while others booed loudly when event organizers announced Paul as the winner.

Paul spoke at the conference along with potential presidential candidates former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. Romney won second with 22 percent, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came in third with 7 percent and Pawlenty finished with 6 percent.

Fewer than a quarter of the 10,000 attendees participated in the balloting, an unscientific sampling that only offers bragging rights.

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