Rand Paul Cruises to Victory in CPAC Straw Poll

Rand Paul Cruises to Victory in 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's 31 percent was nearly three times as much support as the next nearest vote getter, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 11 percent. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson pulled in 9 percent of the vote and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finished fourth with 8 percent.

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

The CPAC straw poll is a useful measure of where the energy lies among the younger, rank-and-file conservatives who predominate among the thousands of 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 CPAC title in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012.

The freshman senator's victory in the 2014 straw poll 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, Paul has worked to build off of the robust nationwide fundraising network that his father utilized during his own presidential runs in 2008 and 2012 and has made it a point to build 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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