Rand Paul wins CPAC straw poll

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate MORE (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.

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In one of CPAC 2013's best-received speeches, Paul on Thursday told conservative activists that the Republican Party had grown "stale and moss covered" and said the GOP needs a more libertarian approach that makes freedom the movement's defining principle.

According to conference organizers, 25 percent of voters picked Paul as their choice for the next Republican presidential nominee. Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioApple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Surging Sanders draws fresh scrutiny ahead of debate MORE (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 RyanPaul Davis RyanWarren now also knocking Biden on Social Security Biden alleges Sanders campaign 'doctored video' to attack him on Social Security record Sanders campaign responds to Biden doctored video claims: Biden should 'stop trying to doctor' public record MORE (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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhat to watch for on Day 2 of Senate impeachment trial Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Cruz: White House not expected to push motion to dismiss impeachment articles MORE (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.