Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, long criticized by conservatives as a “RINO” (Republican In Name Over) won over enough right-wing activists at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to win the event’s straw poll Saturday, beating out challenger Rick Santorum.
Romney carried the straw poll with 38 percent of the vote, compared to 31 percent for Santorum. Former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich finished a distant third with 15 percent and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who skipped the event, brought up the rear with 12 percent.
While the straw poll win is not an official endorsement from the conference, it does show Romney gaining ground with conservatives, something his campaign needs after losing three contests to Santorum earlier in the week.
The straw poll win gave the Romney camp two doses of good news Saturday. He also captured the Maine caucus.