Sen. Rand Paul won the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll last month with relative ease. In my opinion, the Kentucky Senator now has to be considered the strongest contender for the Republican nomination for President in 2016. This is another indication of Sen. Paul’s strength among libertarian-leaning conservatives. Winning this year’s presidential preference straw poll at CPAC is highly significant. Sen. Paul’s 31 percent was nearly three times as much support as the next nearest vote getter, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 11 percent. Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, reached 9 percent of the vote and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finished fourth with 8 percent. At least Gov. Christie, the former front-runner for the GOP nomination, was invited this year. But his appearance amounted to very little since it appears his race is pretty much over.
While Sen. Paul also won the straw poll at last year’s CPAC conference, the margin was much closer. He edged out Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in that vote by a 25 percent to 23 percent margin. Previous poll results have meant little in future presidential races. In the last two CPAC straw polls that were held during midterm election years, then Rep. Ron Paul won in 2010 and former Virginia Sen. George Allen came out on top in 2006. But times have changed dramatically since those votes. The tea party takeover of the National Republican Party makes Sen. Paul a viable candidate in 2016 and in my opinion the front-runner for the GOP nomination at this juncture. That opinion was confirmed by a poll conducted by CNN that showed Sen. Paul leading Rep. Paul Ryan and Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the nomination.
Significantly, Sen. Paul has built a nationwide fundraising network that his father utilized during his own presidential runs in 2008 and 2012. He built alliances with more traditional conservatives like fellow Kentuckian and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Sen. Paul is heading back to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire this month and is planning several additional trips to early voting states in the next year. Stay tuned!
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