Just as many insiders predicted, Kentucky’s Rand Paul won this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)presidential straw poll on Saturday, garnering 25 percent of the vote. Florida’s Marco Rubio finished second, taking 23 percent of the much-hyped poll.
Both first term senators are considered party favorites for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, while former-Pennsylvania senator, and 2012 presidential candidate, Rick Santorum finished third in the CPAC poll, followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Christie, once a party favorite, was not invited to speak at CPAC 2013, following what many conservatives felt was too intimate a relationship with President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
On other hand, Paul’s recent historic filibuster – a modern day record of 13 hours - made him a hero for many across the country, prompting Twitter hash tags, signs at CPAC, and even fundraising emails from the National Republican Senatorial Committee with what may prove his newfound slogan, ‘Stand With Rand.'
Though Mitt Romney won the CPAC poll last year, it has not always proven accurate in selecting the party's presidential nominee, with Paul family supporters helping the senator’s father, former-Rep. Ron Paul, R-TX, win the 2010 and 2011 CPAC straw polls.
CPAC officials said 2,930 people participated in this year’s online poll, which included ballots from all 50 states. Of those, the voters who 'Stand with Rand' had a multitude of reasons behind their votes.
Lauri Dabbieri, a high school teacher from Fairfax County, VA, told USA Today that she voted for the Kentucky senator when she heard him say he would abolish the Department of Education, which she called "completely useless."
Phil Johnson, 27, a technology project manager, told the same publication that the Kentuckian is "the one candidate who has a grasp on liberty."
Twenty-three candidates' names appeared on the ballot, which was sponsored by The Washington Times, and while 44 names appeared in the results as write-in contenders, the more credible outcome reads like a who's who of the modern GOP: Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan with 6 percent; Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker with 5 percent; Dr. Ben Carson with 4 percent, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz with 4 percent; Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal with 3 percent, former Alaska Republican Gov. and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin with 3 percent. The remaining candidates received a combined 14 percent.