(CNN) - Sen. Rand Paul easily won the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, giving the potential White House candidate an early boost with the Republican base ahead of the 2016 election.
It was the second-straight year the Kentucky lawmaker topped the poll at the annual gathering, notching 31% support.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was second with 11%, followed by conservative firebrand Ben Carson.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, never popular with many in the party's conservative base, was fourth with 8% support.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who for a time gave Mitt Romney a run for his money with conservative voters in the 2012 presidential race, rounded out the top six.
CPAC is the largest annual gathering of conservative leaders and activists and is a must-attend cattle call for GOP presidential hopefuls looking to pass the right-wing litmus test.
Polling indicates no real frontrunner among the potential GOP contenders so far. The next race for the White House officially doesn't get under way until after November's midterm election, and it's fair to say presidential surveys this early are often heavily influenced by name recognition.
Still, the straw poll was a strong sign for some and a troubling one for others.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who finished second last year - just two points behind Paul at 23% - fell to a disappointing 6%. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who fired up the crowds Friday morning, received only three percent.
Though Cruz was a distant second, his 11% was up 4 points from his showing last year.
Sen. Paul said in a statement that he was grateful for the support, touching on his libertarian themes of individual rights and standing up for the Constitution.
"Thank you and onwards to victory," he said.
Paul, whose libertarian fight in the Senate is often met with a tepid response, spoke before an audience Friday that treated him like a rock star.
The son of former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the first-term senator is eager to expand his base and expand the GOP in general.
He's been aggressively trying to broaden the party by talking about the need to include not only libertarians, but even Democrats and minority voters that don't traditionally fall in the GOP column.
But he wasn't trying to hammer home that message on Friday. His remarks were mostly catered to firing up the conservative libertarian crowd.
Paul supporters could be seen at all corners of the conference this week, easily spotted by their "I Stand With Rand" stickers and signs.
With representatives from all 50 states, 2,459 people participated in the straw poll. As is usually the case, it was a very young voting group, with 46% of the voters between 18 and 25 years old, and overwhelmingly male, at 63%.
CNN's Steve Brusk, Conor Finnegan, Ashley Killough and Peter Hamby contributed to this report.
One of the few that is NOT a Lawyer! He and is Father are very aware of the lawyers in D.C.
Great sign for the Democrats, Paul is an extremist that belongs to the century past. Until Republicans find someone that understands middle America, they will not see the inside of the White House for very long time.
Straw polls are really quite meaningless but it is a good indicator of which direction the Republican party may be heading. The more Obama goes to the left, the more Republicans will go to the right as they hate Obama's non-stop spending habits and super liberal policies.
We have fewer actual tax payers than ever before and out of control spending. There has got to be some kind of balance somewhere in order to bring some sanity back in our economy.
We've had out-of-control spending since the early eighties. What we NEED is large spending cuts AND large tax increases so we will have a substantial Surplus and start paying off the Debt. 1/3 of our taxes goes to paying the interest on the debt. If we ever manage to pay off the national debt, we can afford to have large tax cuts.
I just wanted to reply that Ronald Reagan was a liberal. Someone said they hadn't heard that before.
By todays standards, he was a moderate. In 1980, he was considered very conservative.
At least Rick Perry didn't win. 'Caught his speech on the radio, and it's the well-worn we're the Party of God who must defeat the heathens. Not all social liberals are agnostics or aetheists; not all religious conservatives attend church. There are liberal gun-owners and gay Republicans. Not everyone's an extremist or uniform on all these views. But the continued mix of religion and politics is only going to confuse, divide, and ultimately break this country.
ObamaCare has more people signing up for Medicaid programs which even right now cannot pay out and support them. The ballyhooed "free market" has responded by cutting their full-time work force (now just 30 hours and up); the temp industry has never had it so good. (See Time magazine and temptowns.) Both sides are playing their aces; the joker's on U.S.
How did winning the straw poll in 2010 work out for Ron Paul? just sayin....
It's amazing how Rick Santorum came within 1 point of Romney in Ohio despite being outspent by a factor of 42 to 1, and yet he is not considered by the GOP leadership. In 159 years the GOP has yet to nominate a single Roman Catholic for President.
Independent here. Voted for Obama in '08, wrote-in Ron Paul in '12. Will vote for Rand Paul in a heartbeat in '16.
And people flee the party of extremists in droves.....
Reagan was NOT a liberal by any measure or in any time. The definition of liberal and conservative has not changed, though conservatism came to include social conservatism due to Christian fundamentalists. The myth that standards have changed so dramatically in recent years is just ridiculous. The only difference between Reagan conservatism and modern conservatism is that the evangelical wing that began to emerge around his time has fully taken root. He was actually a big influence in that, being a social conservative himself. Mr.Conservative (Barry Goldwater) warned about that influence and was adamantly opposed to it. By the 90s he actually took to jokingly referring to himself as a liberal in contrast to what was being called "conservative". The evangelical influence peaked during Bush's tenure and is beginning to wane, though it is still firmly rooted. Libertarian conservatives like Paul are on the rise, and will eventually bring conservatism back into line with Goldwater's style of social tolerance and strict fiscal conservatism. In the meantime, those of us who never abandoned true conservative values (social intolerance NOT being one of them) don't take kindly to being called liberal. Liberalism is and always has been naive, irrational, sentimentally driven populism. While Reagan sometimes failed to keep the liberals in Congress from advancing their policies, he was nowhere near one himself. I was never a big fan of his, and even less a fan of the Bush's, but he was NOT a liberal by any standard.
If Rand was running as a Democrat I'd vote for him twice.
cruz can't run. He is Canadian born