NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Kentucky Senator Rand Paul won the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll on Saturday with 25 percent of the vote, a feat his father used to regularly achieve as a presidential candidate.
The Paul wing of the party won the CPAC straw poll for their leader Ron Paul in 2010 and 2011. Mitt Romney won it last year. It has little to do with who ends up achieving the presidency.
But it’s a window into the mood of the movement conservatives and libertarians who populate the party somewhat warily together, and this year the result represents an ascendant libertarian wing of the party.
Paul was one of the breakout stars of the conference, packing the ballroom during his speech, during which most of the audience stayed on their feet. Red and black “Stand With Rand” posters, t-shirts, and buttons adorn many of the attendees here — a #StandWithRand bracelet was even in the official CPAC swag bag. And Paul’s 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director has been invoked more than once from the main stage as a totem of true conservative and anti-Obama values, including by RNC chairman Reince Priebus: “”When President [Barack] Obama refuses to answer a simple question, Rand Paul didn’t sit down. For thirteen hours, he stood proudly on the principles of liberty. One by one, other senators joined him. How great is that?” Priebus said. Even Marco Rubio’s more traditional conservative message was drowned out by the reaction to Paul’s speech, which focused on drones and cutting foreign aid.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio placed second in the poll with 23 percent of the vote, according to the Washington Times, with Rick Santorum placing third with 8 percent. The poll results showed that of the 2,930 voters at CPAC, well over half were male and a large portion were between 18 and 25.