Rand Paul Easily Wins CPAC Straw Poll

Rand Paul Easily Wins CPAC Straw Poll
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In another indication of his strength among libertarian-leaning conservatives, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul won the 2014 presidential preference straw poll at CPAC on Saturday.

A likely 2016 White House contender, Paul drew 31 percent of the votes to easily outpace Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (11 percent) and physician Ben Carson (9 percent). New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie followed with 8 percent, trailed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Sen. Rick Santorum (both 7 percent) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (6 percent).

Paul also won the straw poll at last year's Conservative Political Action Conference when he edged out Florida Sen. Marco Rubio by a 25 percent to 23 percent margin.

The poll is a useful measure of where the energy is concentrated among the younger, rank-and-file conservatives predominant among the thousands of CPAC attendees, but it is rarely predictive of results in future presidential races.

In the last two CPAC straw polls that were held during midterm election years, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul won in 2010 and former Virginia Sen. George Allen came out on top in 2006.

Paul's victory marks the eighth straight year in which the CPAC poll was won by either Ron or Rand Paul or Mitt Romney, who claimed the title in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012.

The freshman senator's 2014 victory came a day after he delivered one of the best-received speeches at this year's installment of the nation's largest annual gathering of conservative activists. Speaking to a standing room-only crowd, Paul peppered his remarks with his "pro-liberty" message, urging fellow conservatives to engage in a "national revival of liberty."

Though he maintains publicly that he is still deciding whether to mount a presidential run in 2016, Paul has not been coy about his White House ambitions. Since arriving in the Senate in 2011, he has worked to build upon the robust nationwide fundraising network his father utilized during his presidential runs in 2008 and 2012 and has made it a
point to forge alliances with more traditional conservatives like fellow Kentuckian and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Paul is heading back to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire next month and is planning several additional trips to early voting states over the next year, according to an aide. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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