A group of U.S. conservative activists has picked Republican Congressman Ron Paul as their favorite candidate to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in a presidential election next year.
Paul took first place in the presidential straw poll held Saturday by the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, with 30 percent of the vote. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was second with 23 percent.
It was the second year in a row that Paul won the contest. The House member representing the southern state of Texas has a loyal following among libertarian activists who want a smaller federal government and oppose perceived government infringements on civil liberties.
Paul ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, but was not able to draw wider public support, and lost to the eventual Republican nominee, Senator John McCain.
Several more prominent Republicans regarded as contenders for the 2012 election finished far behind Paul in Saturday's vote. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee earned vote tallies in the low single-digits. Neither attended the conference.