Rep. Ron Paul scored a decisive victory in a mock presidential election at the Values Voter Summit in Washington on Saturday, while his fellow Texan, Rick Perry, tied for fourth.
Paul got 37 percent of the vote; two other conservative favorites, businessman Herman Cain and former Sen. Rick Santorum, took second and third place, respectively, in the straw poll of some 3,000 religious activists. Cain got 23 percent of the vote and Santorum, 16 percent.
Perry and Michele Bachmann won 8 percent apiece. Mitt Romney got 4 percent of the vote and Newt Gingrich, 3 percent.
A year ago in the same contest, Paul came in second-to-last.
The victory for the longtime congressman and three-time presidential contender over his Republican rivals in the presidential contest was all the more surprising because Paul's principled libertarianism sometimes puts him at odds with the views of social conservatives on issues such as gay marriage and drug laws.
But in a speech hours before the straw poll results were announced, Paul argued that his staunch fiscal conservatism and dogmatic views on liberty were in tune with family values and the Bible.
Paul has a history of scoring surprising straw poll wins by packing the electorate with his diehard supporters. Even so, the Values Voter Summit represents a setback for Perry, who is counting on voters who share his socially conservative views to help power his candidacy into the top tier of Republicans. In addition, the gathering put Perry in the midst of a controversy when the Dallas pastor who introduced him Friday later told reporters that Romney's Mormon faith is a "cult" and "not Christian."
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