Do we even need to start with the usual caveats regarding straw polls? Under the best of circumstances they tend to be narrow snapshots, walled off by geography and representing the most active and enthusiastic voters who show up at such places where straw polls are taken. And they aren’t always predictive of broader outcomes, with proof of that being found by looking no further back than the 2011 Ames straw poll. Still, it’s better than nothing for political junkies waiting for their next election day fix, and the Northeastern Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire has served up a new one for you.

And the big winner is

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won his second GOP presidential straw poll at Saturday’s Northeast Republican Leadership Conference (NRLC) in New Hampshire.

Paul brought in 15 percent of the vote in the first-in-the-nation primary state even though he did not attend, the conference announced in a statement.

“What this survey tells is that is that no one candidate has really separated themselves from the potential field in 2016,” said Ryan Steusloff, vice president of WPA Opinion Research which conducted the poll. “At this point, the nomination is completely up-for-grabs and of the would-be contenders, no one can be ruled out just yet.”

So what you’re saying is that it was definitively not definitive?

Honestly, I was a little shocked to see Rand take first place, even if it was only with 15%. He not only didn’t attend, but didn’t have a booth or any organized supporters that I noticed. I heard his name mentioned possibly twice through the course of the event. Of course, Chris Christie came in second, with 13%, and I didn’t really hear his name either, except in passing by a few of the speakers.

The rest of the line-up was:
Ben Carson, Scott Walker and Rick Santorum tied for 3rd at 11%
Bobby Jindal 9%
Jeb Bush 8%
Ted Cruz 4%
Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and John Bolton tied for last at 3%

What you can see above all else is that this crowd was completely scattered across a number of names, and few were swayed by how much or how little effort the various choices put into wooing them. As mentioned, Paul and Christie were non-entities at the event and they fared best. Bobby Jindal was all over the place, hosting VIP cocktail events, the top billed speaker at Friday’s dinner and pressing the flesh everywhere. All of this failed to get him into double digits. Peter King was there working the crowd from beginning to end and he didn’t even wind up moving the needle.

The only one who seemed to get a payoff for their investment was Ben Carson. While Dr. Carson wasn’t there in person, he was an event sponsor, had a booth with books and promotional material right by the entrance to the Reagan ballroom and had a representative give closing remarks to the entire crowd right before Saturday’s dinner. They were working the crowd in a serious fashion and managed to share a piece of the bronze medal.

I’ll put a bookmark on this one if only for personal entrainment purposes. It will be interesting to compare these numbers to where we stand when CPAC 2016 rolls around.