Paul Edges Rubio in CPAC Straw Poll
PHOTO: Supporters of Sen. Rand Paul cheer as Paul speaks at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., March 14, 2013.

Rand Paul 2016?

The Kentucky senator emerged as the potential 2016 presidential candidate preferred by the largest share of those who participated in a straw poll at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. Paul commanded 25 percent of straw poll voters, but another possible GOP contender, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, was close on his heels with 23 percent, according to the results of the survey announced today.

None of the other Republicans whose names appeared on the straw poll ballot managed to break double digits. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who tried but failed to win the Republican nomination in 2012, finished third with 8 percent of the vote. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was right behind Santorum with 7 percent, followed by last year's vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, at 6 percent.

Paul's win comes a little over a week since his attention-getting, 13-hour filibuster of CIA director nominee John Brennan. And it was clear at the gathering this week that Paul was a crowd favorite.

"Now I was told I only get 10 measly minutes. But just in case I brought 13 hours of information," Paul joked as he opened his remarks to the conference on Thursday, holding large binders in his hands.

Many attendees donned T-shirts and held up signs emblazoned with the slogan, "I Stand With Rand."

"The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered. I don't think we need to name any names here, do we?" Paul said in his remarks. "The new GOP - the GOP that will win again - will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and personal sphere."

Like all straw polls, this one was a non-scientific measure of preference, in this case, of 2,930 of the attendees at the three-day annual conference that took place outside Washington, D.C. More than half (52 percent) of those who participated were between the ages of 18 and 25.

Notably, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who spoke to CPAC on Friday night, asked that his name not be included on this year's straw poll ballot. Twenty-three other names did appear, however, including at least two governors - Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell - who were not invited to address the gathering.

Mitt Romney won the CPAC straw poll in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Ron Paul won in 2010 and 2011. Romney won again in 2012. This year's poll was sponsored by The Washington Times and conducted by the GOP firm, Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates.

Here's a rundown of the top 2013 CPAC straw poll finishers:

Ky. Sen. Rand Paul - 25 percent

Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio - 23 percent

Other/Write-in - 14 percent

Former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum - 8 percent

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie - 7 percent

Wis. Congressman Paul Ryan - 6 percent

Wis. Gov. Scott Walker - 5 percent

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson - 4 percent

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz - 4 percent

La. Gov. Bobby Jindal - 3 percent

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin - 3 percent

Undecided - 1 percent

2013 CPAC Presidential Straw Poll ballot:

N.H. Sen. Kelly Ayotte Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Neurosurgeon Ben Carson N.J. Gov. Chris Christie Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Former Ind. Gov. Mitch Daniels S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley La. Gov. Bobby Jindal Ohio Gov. John Kasich N.M. Gov. Susana Martinez Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Ky. Sen. Rand Paul Ind. Gov. Mike Pence Texas Gov. Rick Perry Ohio Sen. Rob Portman Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio Wis. Congressman Paul Ryan Former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum S.C. Sen. Tim Scott S.D. Sen. John Thune Wis. Gov. Scott Walker Other/Write-in Undecided

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