March 8th, 2014
07:35 PM ET
8 months ago

Sen. Rand Paul convincingly wins CPAC presidential straw poll

(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.


Filed under: 2016 • CPAC • Rand Paul
soundoff (238 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    "There has got to be some kind of balance somewhere in order to bring some sanity back in our economy."

    #1. Obama is far from being a liberal.
    #2. Running an anti-government candidate such as Paul whose family sucks the government teat is nothing more than hypocrisy.

    March 9, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  2. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    The one sound bite I heard from this love-in that made any sense was offered by Newt. That was if the Repugs focused all their angst against Hillary for the next three years, they would guarantee her the presidency.

    Repugs! Listen to Newt. He's ditzy but in this instance, he is right.

    March 9, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  3. Cindy

    Perhaps you would prefer that the entire country becomes just like New York State Mike??????

    March 9, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  4. Cindy

    #1. Obama is far from being a liberal.
    #2. Running an anti-government candidate such as Paul whose family sucks the government teat is nothing more than hypocrisy.
    _____________________________________________________________________________________________

    I didn't endorse Paul either. I think there are better choices out there. Obama is not liberal????? You must be from Colorado and smoking too much of that wacky weed.

    I suppose you are also happy about the proposed $4 trillion budget for this year that will never pass Congress.

    March 9, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. B. Lake

    Libertarianism was a perfect political philosophy 175 years ago. In a country with about 15 million people, almost totally rural, where self sufficiency and dislike of government was needed and normal. In the 21st century, in a country of over 300 million, with the largest economy in the world such an idea is simply societal and cultural suicide. The larger and more complex a society becomes, the larger and more complex a government must become. Otherwise you end up with west central Africa, essentially tribal anarchy.

    March 9, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  6. BeverlyNC

    This is GREAT news. Hope they run Ted Cruz as the VP candidate. It will be the biggest landslide for Democrats in decades. Two extremists out of touch with reality who cannot tell the truth about anything. Two who want to destroy our government. Two who want to take away the rights of women, workers and even our right to vote.
    Choosing Rand Paul again shows how clueless Republicans are about the needs and priorities of the People.
    Remember to vote in November so we can get these do-nothing Republican out of Congress. Let's get some actual work done for the nation the next 2 years instead of Boehner refusing to let any bill come up for a vote and McConnell filibustering 477 bills in the Senate (the normal is 0).
    Republicans = destruction at a time when we need to be moving forward and putting People first over corporations.

    March 9, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. EPAB

    The Goofy Old Party never ceases to amaze me.

    March 9, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  8. BADGUY

    Gee..the guy who wants to GUT my Social Security...AND.....my Medicare...is the GOP "front runner"?

    March 9, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  9. BADGUY

    When Rand Paul says: "FREE Americans from government control and government subsidies"...he's really ONLY referring to the bottom 99%. The Koch Brothers need NEVER assume that refers to THEM!

    March 9, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  10. Anonymous

    @ Cindy

    Google is your friend. Many of the ideas Obama has tried to get through this do nothing congress are the very same policies Ronald Reagan promoted. I've yet to hear anyone call Ronald Reagan a liberal.

    March 9, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  11. Cindy

    Hello B. Lake

    You are confusing liberal and Liberalism. They are quite different. Many Tea Party people (including Rand Paul) are also Libertarians and not to be confused with being liberal. I enclosed a short definition I hope is helpful.

    Libertarianism ( is a set of related political philosophies that uphold liberty as the highest political end.[2][3] This includes emphasis on the primacy of individual liberty,[4][5] political freedom, and voluntary association.

    March 9, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  12. Ben Daviss

    This assumes that the chief qualification for a competent president is that he or she holds the correct set of opinions and needs no experience negotiating with Congress, no close familiarity with the Middle East problem, no detailed plan for economic recovery, or any other relevant experience. At least that was the right wing's rap on Obama six years ago - "he has no experience - he's just a half-term senator!" But you can be inexperienced or a half-term senator and be the Toast of Crazyland if you think the right thoughts.

    March 9, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  13. Bill R in Oakland

    Paul/Cruz 2016!! Please GOP, do it!

    March 9, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  14. Ronald Noe

    Bring him on. The hate train, which is the GOP, has not got a chance. You cannot alienate every part of society and then say you have a better plan when you haven't had a plan and still don't have one!! Absolutely insane!

    March 9, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  15. Pete

    I'm looking forward to them widely explaining how he got his doctoral credentials

    March 9, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. Cindy

    Hey Badguy

    I have been a registered Independent for 20 years, long before it was popular. There are good and bad points to both parties and both parties in Washington are a bunch (most, but not all) of self-serving people who no more care about the people they were elected to serve than a dog does.

    You want to sort things out a bit better I would look at the states however. What states are generating the most jobs vs. what states people are fleeing. That is where you might find some additional insight if you care to look.

    March 9, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. not really news

    Just like his daddy... bus in a bunch supporters and make it look like he is a winner. I suspect that Stephen Colbert might have a straw poll win of his own at one of these conventions someday.

    March 9, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. Duffer

    Funny the fights on if someone is a conservative or a liberal, or libertarian in the case of Paul. Fact is the defintions are simplistic and do not describe any individual. But they are used to either embolden or diminish politicians. The only reason they are effective is because we have a population that wishes to understand without putting in effort, by short cuts and slogans. What we need is for folks to open their mind to more than the political jargon and learn, study, understand the problems we face and how the options being offered might work, and what negative consequences might result.

    For each solution their are consequences. Only in this way will we get past the politicians who only provide slogans and simple solutions to something more meaningful, with depth and that is likely to better address the problems the Country faces.

    March 9, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. yruatwit

    Yes Rand Paul, please run. And Rubio and Christi and Santorum and Walker and Carson and Cruz and Ghomert and Perry and King, please run. This is a bigger group of Simpleton misfits that those that ran in 2012. Rethuglicans listen closely, you can deliver the message in a variety of different ways but it will not change the issue. The issue IS the message. It's ancient, out of touch with reality, backwoods, racist, intolerant, uneducated, uninformed and wrong. Get ready for President Hillary Clinton, we no longer live in the 1950's.

    March 9, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  20. PKRipper

    Can't wait to see the debates between Paul and Clinton. He'll school her just like Romney schooled obama in the first debate. Made him look like a child but the obamanauts went ahead and elected him anyway. Failure after failure and they're still faithful to their little tin leader. It's very sad really.

    March 9, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  21. kathy

    Horrified at the thought of Rand Paul in the White House.

    March 9, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  22. w2lucky

    Very disappointing. Paul is not the answer. The GOP just can't seem to find someone with brains, charisma and energy to inspire our youth, the latino vote, and women. It's that simple and they keep producing, stuffed shirt after stuffed shirt.

    March 9, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. Jon

    I just wanted to reply that Ronald Reagan was a liberal. Someone said they hadn't heard that before.

    March 9, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. futureman

    The Toast of Crazyland. I cannot add to that. Touche!

    March 9, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  25. Jim

    Rand Paul is running on a similar "hope and change" mantra that Obama lodged in 2008, except he is professing too much libertarianism, which on the surface may sound cool to people who want the Dems out of there. But, this guy is spouting extreme views, some that may be gravely damaging to our national security and he is using emotional hooks to secure votes in the base and appeal to those not well informed of the ideological struggles throughout history. He will see, that like Obama, he will not be able to deliver on most of his campaign promises and will turn people sour. Then what are we left with? What we really need is a moderate Republican who can bring the two sides together. This guy will divide us in the end.

    March 9, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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