For the second year in a row, attendees at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend picked United States Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) as their likely choice for the Republican Party’s next presidential nominee.
The first-term senator and son of longtime lawmaker Ron Paul received 31 percent of the vote during a presidential straw poll held at CPAC on Saturday in National Harbor, Maryland outside of Washington, DC. Organizers say 2,459 attendees participated in the non-binding election.
This weekend’s win for Sen. Paul constitutes his second consecutive CPAC victory, but the results of the latest poll suggest the lawmaker is more widely lauded among the GOP than ever. Paul’s 31 percent demonstrates a surge in support of 6 percentage points compared to the results of the previous year’s straw poll, and the runners-up this time around managed to only garner a fraction of the votes that Paul walked away with.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came in second place during this weekend’s contest, accumulating only 11 percent of the votes — or practically one-third of what Paul managed to poll, according to CPAC organizers. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came in third and fourth place, respectively, each polling in the single digits.
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday a day later, Sen. Paul outlined what some are calling a potential presidential campaign 32 months ahead of the 2016 elections.
According to Fox, Paul said he has been trying to reach young Americans “fed up” with the US National Security Agency’s ongoing surveillance scandal, and that “The Fourth Amendment is just as important as the Second Amendment.”
“That’s what distinguishes me from other Republicans,” said the senator, suggesting a potential Paul 2016 campaign would rely just as much on reforming the NSA as it would to ensure the right to bear arms remains intact.
With regards to a presidential campaign, however, Sen. Paul said he hasn’t quite decided for sure on whether or not he will be running. He did acknowledge, though, to having “done everything that would make it work,” adding, “But I still haven’t made up my mind.”
Should Sen. Paul take that route, then he said he could expect to see substantial help from the young voters who turned out in droves to elect President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but rescinded their support for the Democrat in the years since.
“It’s a real opportunity for Republicans,” Paul told Fox News Sunday.
Tony Fabrizio, a GOP pollster who has run the CPAC straw poll since 1986, told Politico that nearly half of the voters at this weekend’s conference were between the ages of 18 and 26.
“This is a sampling of people from all 50 states who are at the forefront of the conservative moment,” Fabrizio said. “They’re the people who go knock on doors.”
“The fight for liberty continues, and we must continue to stand up and say: We’re free and no one, no matter how well-intentioned, will take our freedoms from us,” Sen. Paul told those supporters in a statement released after the results of Saturday’s straw poll. “Together we will stand up for the Constitution. Together we will fight for what is right. Thank you, and onwards to victory.”
According to the results pertaining to other issues up for discussion during this weekend’s straw poll, 41 percent of CPAC attendees said recreational marijuana should be legalized, and three-quarters said they oppose the NSA’s monitoring of phone calls and emails.
The senator’s father, then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), came in first place during the CPAC straw poll in both 2010 and 2011. Along with Mitt Romney, Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, the two Pauls are among the few Republicans to have ever won the straw poll two or more times.