Romney Wins Conservatives' Straw Poll

Mitt Romney won 21 percent of the vote at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Mitt Romney won 21 percent of the vote at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (By Susan Walsh -- Associated Press)
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 4, 2007

Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney yesterday won a straw poll of conservative political activists gathered in Washington, a very early indication of how an important Republican constituency might vote.

Romney was the first choice for the GOP nomination, with 21 percent of the 1,705 activists who voted at the 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani came in second with 17 percent, and Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.) was third with 15 percent.

Last year, the activists said they preferred as their presidential candidate then- senator George Allen (Va.). He lost his reelection bid in November.

The nation's first primary is more than 10 months away, making such votes little more than a popularity contest among a slice of the population that might not represent any electorate.

But the result underscored the difficulty that one GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), faces in drawing conservative support because of past views and statements. McCain -- who did not attend the convention, unlike Romney and Giuliani -- came in fifth in the straw poll, and the mention of his name yesterday drew boos from the crowd.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) brought the convention to a raucous close yesterday with a speech in which he urged conservatives not to compromise and called for a broader national debate about ideas.

He called on eventual presidential nominees to commit to nine, 90-minute debates after Labor Day 2008. "We need to find a way to have an honest dialogue that is far beyond the kind of baloney you get in nine-second sound bites," Gingrich said.

Gingrich, who has not yet said he is running for president, was virtually mobbed by the crowd as he entered the ballroom. He finished fourth in the straw poll, with 14 percent.

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