Mitt Romney has won the CPAC Straw Poll at this year's Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Washington, D.C.
Romney won 38 percent of the straw poll which counted the votes of 3,408 activists at CPAC, which ran from Thursday through Saturday. Rick Santorum was second with 31 percent, Newt Gingrich was third with 15 percent, and Ron Paul was fourth with 12 percent.
Ron Paul scored far below his totals of the past two years, when he won with 31 in 2010 and 30 percent in 2011.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio won the straw poll for vice president, followed by New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
The poll results mean nothing in the GOP’s presidential nomination battle, but give Romney a boost as he seeks to regain the momentum after losing to Santorum in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado this week.
Romney's 38 percent of the vote among is the highest of any candidate since George W. Bush won 42 percent of the vote in 2000, before winning the presidential nomination. The poll wasn’t held from 2001 through 2004, but has been held every year since then.
The headline of this year's CPAC conference was Mitt Romney's striking line, "I was a severely conservative Republican governor." Romney tried to use his speech to allay concerns about his candidacy, but that single ad-libbed word reinforced fears that he is not a true conservative. Rush Limbaugh noted on his show, "I have never heard anybody say, "I'm severely conservative," and Newt Gingrich said in response, "Some things are too funny to comment on."
Politico's Jonathan Martin reports, "Romney's still the smart-money favorite to become the Republican standard-bearer, but it's increasingly clear that he's going to have to make a more compelling case to conservatives."
Conservative darling Sarah Palin is set to address CPAC to wrap-up the conference later this afternoon. The former Alaska governor is slated to deliver the event's keynote. Palin is not expected to endorse a presidential candidate in her speech. This is Palin's first public appearance outside her home state since she delivered a speech in Orlando, Fl. in November. Today's speech will serve as a barometer about how much influence she retains in the Republican party.
The conference will wrap-up at 5:00 pm EST.
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