Rand Paul Wins CPAC Straw Poll for Third Year in a Row

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won the CPAC straw poll for the third year in a row to close out the conservative conference in Washington today.

Seventeen names were on the straw poll ballot, picked according to whether they've been hiring staff, telling donors they're considering a run, visiting presidential forums or dropping in on early primary states.

Paul won with 25.7 percent of the vote, followed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 21.4 percent.

"I am humbled by the enthusiastic support and encouragement I received this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference," Paul said in a statement released by his PAC. "Our party is filled with constitutional conservatives who have chosen to stand with me for a third consecutive straw poll victory.

"...The Constitutional Conservatives of our party have spoken in a loud and clear voice today. I plan on doing my part and I hope you will join me as I continue to make the GOP a bigger, better and bolder party."

In third place was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) with 11.5 percent, followed by pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 11.4 percent, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with 8.3 percent.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) got 4.3 percent, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) got 3.7 percent.

The straw poll had 3,007 votes, a 20 percent increase over last year's conference participation. Forty-two percent of those voting were students.

Three out of 10 CPAC voters said foreign policy would be their most important issue in picking a presidential candidate. Seven in 10 wanted a "peace through strength" foreign policy when asked about international disengagement.

Just 18 percent said illegal immigrants should be able to stay in the country and apply for citizenship, while 11 percent said they should stay but not be allowed to apply for citizenship.

Four in 10 thought marijuana favored the legalization of taxed marijuana for recreational and medical use, while 27 percent said it should remain illegal.

Most important attribute in a presidential candidate, from a list of offered choices, was a "solid conservative record." Just 17 percent thought the most important quality was for the candidate to appeal to independent voters.

Deal-breakers? The biggest ones were expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, backing Common Core (58 percent said they would never vote for a GOP nominee who supported it), and supporting immigration reform. Just 18 percent said supporting gay marriage was a deal-breaker.

Paul addressed the conference in jeans and rolled-up shirtsleeves on Friday, with his usual pack of loyal supporters bringing down the house and waving "stand with Rand" signs.

He took plenty of shots at presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, arguing the former secretary of State’s “abdication of responsibility, her refusal to provide an adequate defense for Benghazi, her dereliction of duty should forever preclude her from higher office.”

“It’s time for Hillary Clinton to permanently retire,” Paul added.

Paul won the 2014 straw poll with 31 percent of the vote. Cruz came in second a year ago with 11 percent support, Carson got 9 percent, and Christie had 8 percent. Walker did not attend last year's conference and had 7 percent. Rubio got 6 percent back then.