CPAC straw poll winner: Rand Paul

To no one’s great surprise, Rand Paul won the CPAC 2015 straw poll for the third year in a row — but it got a lot closer this year. Despite having no observable ground organization, Scott Walker placed second with 21.4% of the vote, just behind Paul:

Rand Paul won a high-profile straw poll for a third straight year Saturday, capping an annual conservative conference at which delegates argued about how to turn their ideas into a presidential victory in 2016.

The Kentucky senator carried 25.7% in the Conservative Political Action Conference poll, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker finished second with 21.4% — a closer-than-expected tally in this early test of political strength among conservative Republican activists.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., finished third with 11.5%, followed closely by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 11.4%.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — perhaps the most criticized candidate at this conservative conclave — finished fifth at 8.3%.

Bush and Paul had the most obviously organized followings at CPAC. Ben Carson’s team exhibited some organization too, enough to get a fourth-place finish. Cruz, who came in second last year with 11%, finished third but with about the same level of support as in 2014, but that did not appear to be organized support.

I took part in the final panel of the afternoon, being a last-minute substitution for Katie Pavlich on a panel on 2016’s presidential race. The panel’s time kept getting extended as the straw poll tallying took longer than expected, but we were having plenty of fun.

For the first time in my memory, there was no final keynote speaker to end the event. This CPAC was reportedly the most well-attended, getting over 11,300 registered attendees for the three day conference. Straw poll voters grew by over 20% over last year, though, which may be a result of Walker’s supporters getting involved for the first time. Looks like the American Conservative Union had a very successful event — complete with the traditional debate over the meaning of the straw poll.