For the second year in a row, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) won the
presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action
Conference, a victory that was met with raucous cheers from his core
of supporters inside CPAC's main ballroom.
As they did during the libertarian-leaning Republican's speech to the conference Friday, Paul backers managed to drown out the audible jeers that came from many in the crowd after Paul was announced the winner.
No other candidate was even close, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson both earning 6 percent; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) winning 5 percent; and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels with 4 percent each.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who declined to speak at CPAC for the fourth year in a row, earned just 3 percent of the straw poll vote.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), former Sen. Rick Santorum and talk radio host Herman Cain each earned 2 percent of the vote.
When Romney's percentage was announced, Paul supporters booed loudly.
GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio announced the results of the straw poll Saturday afternoon to a packed room of conservative activists, with the stark divide on display even before he officially announced the results.
An impatient Paul backer shouted her support at one point, leading to a loud battle of cheers and jeers from Paul supporters and opponents in the crowd.
"I'm not getting in the middle of that one," Fabrizio joked.
Outgoing American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene also appeared to downplay the significance of the topline results before the official announcement. Keene told the crowd that while the media likes to focus on the straw poll winner, the more significant answers are typically contained within the poll's other questions.
Paul's victory means that, once again, the results of the once highly
anticipated straw poll don't reveal all that much about where the
current field of 2012 presidential hopefuls truly stand among
Paul's win isn't the result of a groundswell of political support among movement conservatives; it's largely thanks to the nearly 1,000 supporters his Campaign for Liberty helped pack into CPAC.
His backers have made been the largest presence by far at the conference over the past three days.
Participation in this year's poll was the highest ever with 3,742 people casting a vote. Still, that's only a small percentage of the estimated 11,000 attendees.
The poll also revealed that 43 percent of those who voted said they are not satisfied with the current field of GOP presidential hopefuls. That's a slight increase over the percentage of activists who said the same last year.