For the second year running, Representative Ron Paul of Texas came out on top among conservative Republicans in a “straw poll” contest to gauge popularity ahead of next year’s presidential race.
Paul, who calls himself a libertarian, is not really the party’s typical standard bearer, by any measure.
However, he earned the most votes in the contest held by the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, in which about 4,000 people cast ballots.
“There is truly a revolution going on in this country,” Paul said in a speech. “We live at a time where we do need a change in attitude, a change in ideas. We don’t need to just change the political parties; we need to change our philosophy about what this country is all about.”
“Our country stands at a precipice,” Paul warned. “America’s greatness and exceptionalism are because we chose economic and political freedom. We are not inherently exceptional. We are exceptional because we chose freedom and we chose to protect that freedom from tyranny with the Constitution.”
He has been a presidential candidate twice in the past: in 1988 and 2008.
The straw poll comes as US conservatives clamor for a clear leader with a lot of voices seeking to be heard, and face the challenge of battling US President Barack Obama.
Paul took 30 percent of the vote, followed by another 2008 presidential hopeful, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, with 23 percent.
Other prominent Republicans were far behind. Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson was the first choice of 6 percent. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who did not attend the conference, also received 6 percent.
The darling of the conservative movement, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, got only 5 percent, while Representative Michele Bachmann, from Minnesota, received 4 percent.
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels both stood at 4 percent.
And in a surprise to many, Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, who did not attend the gathering, got only 3 percent of the vote.
At 2 percent each were former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who also did not attend, former National Restaurant Association head Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Senator John Thune of South Dakota.