WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney won the most support for the Republican presidential nomination in a straw poll of GOP activists attending an annual conference.
Despite his record of inconsistency on some social issues, the former Massachusetts governor got 21 percent of the 1,705 votes cast by paid registrants to the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference. They were asked who their first choice would be for the Republican nomination.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor whose moderate stances on social issues irks the party's right wing, was second with 17 percent.
Both were among the more than half-dozen White House hopefuls who spoke at the conference.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who rounds out the top tier of serious GOP contenders, skipped the event — and was punished for it. He got only 12 percent of the vote.
Ahead of him were Romney, Giuliani and two others. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a favorite of religious conservatives, got 15 percent, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, who says he won't decide whether to run until the fall, got 14 percent.
Others got 5 percent or less.
A year ago, then-Virginia Sen. George Allen received 22 percent of the vote. His presidential chances evaporated last year as he struggled to win — and eventually lost — his Senate re-election race. In that CPAC poll last year, McCain had 20 percent, Giuliani had 12 percent, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had 10 percent, and Gingrich had 5 percent.