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Ron Paul Wins 2010 CPAC Presidential Straw Poll

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) scored a victory in the annual CPAC straw poll, besting nine other Republicans in a vote taken by around 2,395 attendees — around 25 percent of the people at this conservative conference. Paul won 31 percent of the vote; Mitt Romney came in second with 22 percent, his first silver medal after winning the last three straw polls. Sarah Palin came in third with 7 percent, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) came in fourth with 6 percent.

When GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio announced the results, loud booing broke out in the main ballroom; only when Mitt Romney’s showing was announced did they start to cheer, and the cheers continued for Sarah Palin. William Temple, the omnipresent revolutionary war re-enactor who has spent much of the conference standing in the ballroom waving a “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsen flag, stayed mum, then cheered and waved his sign for Palin.

Still, the surprisingly strong result for Paul makes sense to those of us in the hall. Paul’s Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty were a massive presence at this year’s CPAC, holding court in a wing of the exhibit hall and hosting overflowing satellite events with guests like paleoconservative author. They registered hundreds of attendees — nametags were stashed on Campaign for Liberty’s exhibit table — and worked the vote hard as other campaigns basically ignored the contest.

The result reflects two developments at this year’s conference. The first: the mainstreaming (inside the GOP coalition) of Paul’s libertarian beliefs, after years of him being marginalized, and sometimes booed, by this crowd. CPAC teemed with young libertarian-minded activists who, a few years ago, had little to do with the official conservative movement. The second development: the real affection for Romney, who has evolved from an excitable candidate over-eager to please to something of a statesman.

Only four of the 1o nominees spoke at CPAC — Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee and John Thune all skipped.

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