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.
No-show McCain finishes last
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.
Dems react to Coulter's slur
Democratic presidential contender John Edwards hopes to make some quick campaign cash off a conservative columnist's slur.
"I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I -- so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards," Ann Coulter told GOP activists attending the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.
Democrats were quick to condemn her remark.
Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, called on Republican presidential contenders to denounce the "hate-filled" comment.
Edwards' campaign sent an e-mail to supporters calling the comment a "shameless display of bigotry."
It asked supporters to help raise $100,000 in "Coulter Cash" so that the former North Carolina senator could show "every would-be Republican mouthpiece that their bigoted attacks will not intimidate" him.