NEW ORLEANS -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continued to make his case as the early GOP frontrunner for the 2012 presidential nomination, picking up a surprise one-vote win in the straw poll at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
Romney did not attend the conference, but he was still able to pull off something of an upset over Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Romney got 439 votes (24 percent), Paul was second with 438 votes (24), and Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both were at 18 percent, according to results that will be announced shortly. The poll was run by Wilson Research Strategies.
Paul won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February and generally performs well in activist-driven events. Palin spoke to the crowd Friday and was the big-ticket speaker for the event.
Romney improved his stock in the 2008 presidential race by finishing a surprising second at the 2006 Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll. He is in a much different position now, with expectations much higher for his candidacy. He risked not fulfilling those expectations by showing up here and not performing well in the straw poll. Romney is currently on a book tour.