Mitt Romney won the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll on Saturday, taking 38 percent of the vote at the annual gathering of party activists in Washington, D.C.

Romney stole the crown from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has won the contest the past two years but did not appear before the CPAC crowd this year.

With more than 3,400 ballots cast, the final results showed Romney beating former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum 38 percent to 31 percent. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich was third with 15 percent, and Paul finished fourth with 12 percent.

The result should be a boost to Romney, who has recently struggled with his right flank in the GOP presidential contest and lost three states to Santorum on Tuesday.

But perhaps more important than the CPAC straw poll will be the results of the Maine caucuses, which are due after 6 p.m. Eastern time today.