Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll on Saturday, an outcome largely expected by those in attendance, but one that will give him added legitimacy as he seeks to expand his appeal to compete on the national stage in 2016.
According to conference organizers, 25 percent of voters picked Paul as their choice for the next Republican presidential nominee. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) came in a close second with 23 percent support.
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All other finishers took less than 10 percent of the vote, with former GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum taking third with 8 percent.
John Brabender, a top aide to Santorum, said earlier in the week that the former senator wasn’t concerned with the poll. Rather, Brabender said Santorum spoke at the conference more to expand his advocacy organization, Patriot Voices.
Santorum finished second in the 2012 straw poll to Romney, an outcome that Brabender said was due primarily to Romney’s organizational efforts.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who was not invited to speak at CPAC, placed fourth in the 2013 straw poll with 7 percent support, followed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) with 6 percent support.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) picked up 5 percent of the vote, while neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who criticized President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) each received 4 percent of the vote.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) received 3 percent apiece.
The poll, conducted over the course of CPAC, included 2,930 participants and skewed heavily towards young attendees, with respondents between 18 and 25 years of age making up more than half of the vote.
Young voters helped propel Paul’s father, former GOP presidential contender Ron Paul (R-Texas), to national prominence, and make up a core of the libertarian party for which the younger Paul now carries the torch.
--This report was updated at 7:13 p.m.