For the second consecutive year, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., claimed victory in the CPAC presidential straw poll. Paul took 30 percent of the vote, a point down from last year's 31 percent -- but there was no Gary Johnson that year to split votes. Mitt Romney, with 23 percent, was up one point. And Romney, Paul, and Herman Cain were the only candidates whose PACs or exploratory committees had presences in the exhibition halls. But 3742 people voted in the poll, up 56 percent since 2010.
This victory was expected for... well, for a year. Paul's organization spent $100,000 or so on the event, bringing in excited libertarians who -- and this is a first -- built longer lines and fuller rooms than the ones that Ann Coulter is responsible for. His supporters want him to run for president, but they're thinking a bit about where else to go if he takes a pass; former Gov. Gary Johnson won the second choice category on the ballot, with 15 percent of those votes.
But Paul's supporters, and attendees I talked to generally, were still distracted from the presidential race, more interested in the work of Congress.
"I think people are way too optimistic about 2012," said Kevin DeAnna, the founder of Young People for Western Civilization. "Obama's going to win again. It's going to be a repeat of 1996."
The full first-place results:
Ron Paul - 30%
Mitt Romney - 23%
Gary Johnson - 6%
Chris Christie - 6%
Newt Gingrich - 5%
Tim Pawlenty - 4%
Michele Bachmann - 4%
Mitch Daniels - 4%
Sarah Palin - 3%
Herman Cain - 2%
Mike Huckabee - 2%
Rick Santorum - 2%
John Thune - 2%
Jon Huntsman - 1%
Haley Barbour - 1%
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