Sen. Rand Paul (Photo: USA Today)
By Catalina Camia and Martha T. Moore
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky edged out his freshman colleague Marco Rubio of Florida on Saturday as the top vote-getter in a conservative straw poll of 2016 presidential hopefuls.
Paul, a Tea Party favorite elected in 2010, garnered 25% of the vote in the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll. Rubio, who was vetted by Mitt Romney as a potential running mate in 2012, took 23% of the vote.
Thousands of conservative activists wrapped up their annual gathering Saturday night with a speech from freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. The event regularly attracts the rising stars of the Republican Party and is often a place where potential White House contenders make an impact with the grass-roots activists who can help fuel a national campaign.
There were 23 candidates in the straw poll, which was sponsored by The Washington Times and conducted by Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates. Among the more prominent names in the straw poll: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was not invited to speak at the conference, and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee. Jeb Bush the former Florida governor who has not ruled out a 2016 bid, did not want to be included in the poll.
"The conservative movement hasn't quite come to a consensus," pollster Tony Fabrizio said Saturday about the wide field included in the poll.
CPAC's straw polls typically don't match up with the results of presidential primaries or elections.
The passionate followers of former Texas congressman Ron Paul helped the libertarian-thinking Republican win the CPAC straw poll twice, but that didn't translate when it came time to vote in GOP primaries. Mitt Romney came in first from 2007 to 2009 and then again last year -- the only time he was the GOP nominee. Yet he fell short in his 2012 race against President Obama.
Since 1976, only Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have won the CPAC straw poll and gone on to win the White House.