Sen. Rand Paul won the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll Saturday for the third year in a row with 25.7 percent of the vote, according to the USA Today.
Saturday’s CPAC straw poll ended the conference in Maryland where Republicans tried to determine the best way to win the presidency in 2016. Paul spoke to CBS News after the announcement of his victory.
“Since President Ronald Reagan, the Conservative Political Action Conference has been the gold standard on where conservatives stand. The constitutional conservatives of our party have spoken in a loud and clear voice today. I plan on doing my part, and I hope you will join me as I continue to make the GOP a bigger, better and bolder party.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker finished second in the survey of CPAC attendees with 21.4 percent, up from last year’s finish of fifth place.
Echoing last year’s straw poll results Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, finished third with 11.5 percent, followed closely by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 11.4 percent, while former Florida governor Jeb Bush finished fifth at 8.3 percent.
Bush, who didn’t take part in last year’s CPAC straw poll and was booed at this year’s conference, came out as a strong moderate candidate in the survey. He voiced support for his policies of improved legal status for illegal immigrants and Common Core education standards.
The CPAC straw poll results show former Sen. Rick Santorum in sixth place with 4.3 percent while Sen. Marco Rubio received 3.7 percent for seventh followed by Donald Trump in eighth with 3.5 percent.
More than 3,000 people participated in this year’s CPAC straw poll of 17 political candidates with a plurality of young people aged 18 to 25 years old.
Divisions inside the party where readily apparent during the conference with disagreements breaking out over whether to elect a hard core conservative who appeals to party values or a more moderate candidate more acceptable to moderate voters.
In fact Rand Paul, the CPAC straw poll winner may face more of an uphill climb for the Republican nomination than he expected with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson vowing to campaign against him, as reported by the Inquisitr.
Although not a great predictor of a candidate’s ultimate success or failure, the CPAC straw poll is important as a way for candidates to field test campaign ideas.
“We have a lot of disagreements, which is good, but I think we spend too much time attacking each other,” Noelani Bonifacio, a legislative aide to a state senator in Hawaii, who voted for Rubio, a Florida senator, in the straw poll, told the USA Today. “We should be attacking Democrats.”