April 12, 2010 9:59 a.m. EST
Topics: politics, poll, political candidates, election, United States
Kris Alingod - AHN News Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (AHN) - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won a Republican straw poll of presidential nominees over the weekend, beating Rep. Ron Paul of Texas by a hair's breadth.

Romney was the top choice of members of the GOP at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Louisiana with 24 percent or 439 votes. He was only one vote ahead of Paul, who defeated Romney in a straw poll early this year at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin finished third with 18 percent or 330 votes, 9 more than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who spoke before the conference and accused the Obama administration of being "the most radical in American history."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister who unexpectedly won the 2008 Iowa caucuses, received 4 percent. He is followed by Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both with 3 percent.

The SLRC, a quadrennial event which has featured every Republican candidate for the White House since Ronald Reagan, highlighted disparities within the GOP.

Romney chose not to attend the conference but had supporters rallying votes for him ahead of the poll.
The 62-year-old former CEO is on a tour to promote his book "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness."

A Mormon, Romney was vetted for the Republican vice presidential nomination after he ended his presidential bid in February 2008 due to heavy losses on Super Tuesday. He is gathering support for a petition to repeal the Obama administration's newly passed healthcare legislation, citing the private, market-based healthcare reform he helped enact in his state.

Paul, meanwhile, riled up some conservatives at the conference with his trademark anti-war rhetoric, saying, "We have conservatives and liberals. They both like to spend. Conservatives spend money on different things, they like embassies and they like occupation, they like the empire, they like to be in 135 countries and 700 bases."

"Donít you think itís rather conservative to say, 'Oh, itís good to follow the Constitution except for war! Let the Presidents go to war anytime they want!' " he added.

A 2008 presidential hopeful and the 1988 Libertarian Party nominee, Paul was one of only six Republicans to vote against the war in Iraq. He is a medical doctor who is on his 11th term as a congressman.