I know, I know — this comes as no surprise, since the Pauls père et fils routinely organize for CPAC straw polls. I missed last year, but I’m at a loss to recall when anyone else but a Paul won the straw poll when offered. (If I recall correctly, they didn’t hold one in 2012 because of the active primary.) This time, it might be a little different:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has won the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll for the second year in a row.

Paul took 31 percent of the vote, a 20 point lead over second-place finisher Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The freshman senator got 11 percent, but saw a significant uptick from just 4 percent last year.


Conservative favorite Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who’s amassed a grassroots following, was third with 9 percent. Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), who addressed the crowd this year after not being invited in 2012, was fourth with 8 percent support.

The biggest loser of the night was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Though he finished in second place last year with 23 percent, this year his support cratered and he finished in seventh place with just 6 percent support. The Florida senator saw his support among the conservative base erode following his support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Why different? Well, this is the first time that I didn’t see evidence of large-scale organization by Paul supporters. I saw a few “I Stand with Rand” hand signs around, and Senator Paul got a huge audience and reaction to his speech, but the college-student campaign in the hallways never materialized, as it had in previous CPACs. It’s possible that it existed more than was seen, but part of the point in previous CPACs was to overwhelm people with Paul supporters throughout the conference.

This result may, then, reflect more organic support for Paul among the grassroots than organized support, and that’s good news for Paul. Otherwise, though, no one’s going to take the finish order very seriously. I can’t recall the last time a CPAC straw poll predicted even a good primary campaign, so don’t expect anyone who’s seriously thinking about a 2016 run to get discouraged too much by a low finish.

Here’s the video of the announcement last night: