Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Southern Republican Leadership Conference 2012 presidential straw poll this evening. He beat Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) by one vote, 439-438.
The full field (with number of votes):
Newt Gingrich 18% (321)
Mike Huckabee 4%
Gary Johnson 1%
Sarah Palin 18% (330)
Ron Paul 24% (438)
Tim Pawlenty 3%
Mike Pence 3%
Mitt Romney 24% (439)
Rick Santorum 2%The poll was conducted among paid ticket holders at the SRLC, and was managed by Republican pollster Wilson Research Strategies.
The straw poll result extends the rivalry between Romney and Paul supporters at these early GOP events. According to reports on the ground in New Orleans, both candidates had groups at SRLC actively campaigning for votes.
In the last straw poll matchup — at CPAC in February — Paul won with 31% of the vote. Romney came in a distant second with 24%.
Though these straw polls usually don’t have much to do with who the final nominee is, they give some insight into a candidate’s grassroots organization. Paul continues to have strong support among young libertarian voters, who hope he’ll mount another bid for the presidency in two years. Romney is perceived to be the national frontrunner at this point, with many supporters inside the establishment GOP.
The SRLC poll is also notable because, unlike CPAC, it was a test for Sarah Palin. Some Palin supporters chalked up her poor result in the CPAC poll (she got just seven percent of the vote) to the fact that she skipped the annual conservative jamboree. Palin gave a rousing and widely-viewed speech at SRLC on Friday, and came in third in the straw poll with 18% of the vote, just a seven votes ahead of the fourth-place finisher, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.