Are you as severely surprised as I am? Mitt Romney won the last time that Ron Paul didn’t win, and he managed to do it again:
Mitt Romney won The Washington Times/CPAC Presidential Straw Poll on Saturday, and also nipped Rick Santorum as the top choice of conservatives nationwide, according to a new version of the poll conducted for the first time this year that suggests Mr. Romney retains strong support among self-identified conservatives.
Mr. Romney won 38 percent of the straw poll, which counted the votes of 3,408 activists gathered for the Conservative Political Action Conference, which ran from Thursday through Saturday at a hotel in Washington.
Mr. Santorum was second with 31 percent, Newt Gingrich was third with 15 percent and Rep. Ron Paul was fourth with 12 percent — far below his showing the last two years, when he won with 31 in 2010 and 30 percent in 2011.
The results for Paul doesn’t come as much of a shock. Paul didn’t speak at CPAC, and his faithful contingent was mostly absent from the conference this year. Still, it’s a bit of a shock to see him fall all the way to the bottom.
Romney brought a lot of supporters with him to CPAC, which is exactly what this straw poll measures. In that sense, it’s a bit surprising to see Rick Santorum come as close as he did in second place. We saw a lot of Santorum posters and signs at CPAC this year, so perhaps the Santorum campaign managed to get that kind of organization in place. As low on resources they have been, though, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to buy a bunch of tickets for Santorum supporters to attend a three-day conference. I’d chalk that up to more organic support than organization.
The big surprise, though, was Gingrich’s poor showing. He also has resource issues now, but CPAC is his crowd. Normally one would expect Gingrich to score better at this particular conference, especially after a very good speech yesterday. A distant third was not the result the Gingrich team would have wanted for the story line out of CPAC. Gingrich does a little better in the Washington Times’ national poll at 20%, but still trails both Romney (27%) and Santorum (25%).