Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won one in four (25 percent) of the 2,930 ballots cast for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination at the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, narrowly beating Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who won 23 percent of the vote.
Paul was already well-known among CPAC conference attendees as the son of former Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas), who won the straw poll in 2010 and 2011. Rand Paul gained national notoriety shortly ahead of the conference, though, when, just the week before the convention, he filibustered on the Senate floor for nearly 13 hours to bring attention to presidential power and the use of drone strikes on American citizens.
The audience cheered as Paul made reference to the filibuster in his Thursday speech at the convention, which was held Thursday through Saturday in National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington, D.C.
"Now, I was told I got 10 measly minutes. But, just in case, I brought 13 hours worth of information," Paul said as he held up the two large binders he used during the filibuster.
Paul and Rubio are both rising stars in the Republican Party representing two different wings of the party, particularly on foreign policy matters. Paul, like his father, is more libertarian while Rubio is a more traditional conservative.
The poll results could be a reflection of the libertarian leanings of younger conservatives. Over half, 52 percent, of the votes cast were from those in the 18 to 25 age group.
When asked if their most important goal is to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government, promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn, or secure and guarantee American safety at home and abroad, 77 percent answered, "promote individual freedom." Fifteen percent answered, "promote traditional values," and eight percent answered, "secure and guarantee American safety."
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who came closest to beating Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination last year, came in a distant third at eight percent. He was followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (seven percent), Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (six percent), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (five percent), Neurosurgeon Ben Carson (four percent), Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas (four percent), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (three percent), and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (three percent).
Fourteen percent chose a write-in candidate that was not among the available choices. No write-in candidate received as many votes as those on the ballot.