Romney Tops Palin in 2012 Straw Poll

ABC News' Teddy Davis reports: The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has chosen former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the winner of the first Republican straw poll of the 2012 campaign.

With 20 percent of the vote, Romney finished ahead of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who received 14 percent, as well as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who each had 13 percent.

"For the hat trick, Mitt Romney takes his third straight straw poll," said Tony Fabrizio, the Republican pollster who tabulates CPAC's annual straw poll results.

Rounding out the rest of the results: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., received 10 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee received 7 percent, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford received 4 percent, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani received 3 percent, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty received 2 percent and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist received 1 percent. Nine percent indicated that they are undecided. The rest of the straw poll participants wrote in someone else's name.

While announcing the straw poll results, Fabrizio relished the fact that Crist, who took a high-profile role in supporting President Barack Obama's stimulus package, finished in last place with 1 percent.

"Coming in last place is Barack Obama's favorite Republican, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist," said Fabrizio.

The straw poll was only open to individuals who paid, or had someone else pay for them, to register for CPAC. Of the estimated 8,000 activists who attended CPAC, 1,757 conservative activists participated in this year's CPAC straw poll.

CPAC's straw poll got underway on Thursday at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., and was conducted through Friday afternoon.

As conference attendees would walk into the hotel's main ballroom, they were invited to fill out a questionnaire.

The presidential preference question asked: "Thinking ahead to the 2012 presidential election, who would you vote for as the next Republican nominee for president?"

Straw poll participants were then given 10 options in alphabetical order: (1) Crist, (2) Gingrich, (3) Giuliani, (4) Huckabee, (5) Jindal, (6) Palin, (7) Paul, (8) Pawlenty, (9) Romney, and (10) Sanford.

Six of the 10 candidates tested for 2012 spoke to CPAC: Gingrich, Huckabee, Paul, Pawlenty, Romney and Sanford.

The other four -- Crist, Giuliani, Jindal, and Palin -- did not attend CPAC.

It's easy to read too much into CPAC's straw poll: Just ask former then-Sen. George Allen, R-Va. He won CPAC's 2006 presidential straw poll over Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., 22 to 20 percent, but he never made it to the 2008 presidential race because he was booted from office in November 2006 after being caught on camera referring to a rival's political aide as "macaca."

The conservative activists participating in CPAC's straw poll are primarily concerned with limiting the scope of government. Seventy-four percent of straw poll participants said they are most concerned about limiting the size of government, 15 percent said they are primarily concerned with promoting traditional values and 10 percent said they are primarily concerned with security regardless of the cost.

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