Romney gets owned by Ron Paul at Conservative Leadership Conference; defeated decisively in straw poll despite fawning in-person appeal to the crowd—also, Romney riffs on a line by Howard Dean and gets lashed and lampooned by DNC and other GOP candidates

“SPARKS, Nev. – Ron Paul won the GOP presidential straw poll conducted by organizers at the Conservative Leadership Conference held at the Nugget Casino this weekend ‘by a large margin,'” according to an organizer, writes the estimable Chuck Todd based on field notes and text messages from NBC/NJ’s Erin McPike in an msnbc FIRST READ: the day in politics post titled Despite Showing Up In Person, Romney Loses Nev. Straw Poll.

Paul won with 32 percent, McCain came in second with 17 percent, Hunter was third with 15 percent, and “Romney was in the lower numbers because people came out for his event but they just didn’t vote for him,” according to organizer and McCain operative Paul Jackson.

Although many of the Republican presidential teams had surrogates representing them at the conference, Mitt Romney and Duncan Hunter were the only candidates to speak at the conference, and the victor himself was not there.

Libertarian sentiment dominated the conference, and a number of attendees expressed disappointment with the Republican Party for not catering to many of their views. Several speakers explained that they were looking to move on, echoing much of the discontent that came out of the meeting of the Council for National Policy in Salt Lake City late last month.

In fact, American Target Advertising Chairman Richard Viguerie, who said he was part of the strategic meetings in Salt Lake City, said Thursday night that even though he has agreed not to support Giuliani, Thompson or McCain, he’s still not close to declaring support for Romney or any other lower tier candidates because they are still actively and seriously courting conservatives. “Why would we stop the flow of flowers and candy?” he said.

Please note that Romney is counted among the “lower tier candidates.”

Almost on cue, Romney said during his speech the next day to the group, “I’m from the Republican wing of the Republican Party,” eliciting a negative response from some rival campaigns and the Democratic National Committee. The DNC jumped and noted that he stole Chairman Howard Dean’s line from the previous election when he told voters he was “from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” before losing to John Kerrymore [emphasis ours]

Even in person Romney fails to persuade or convince. Or should we write, especially in person?—in any case, Romney is taking hits from all sides, and some of those hits have been below the waterline.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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