Rand Paul Wins Meaningless Straw Poll For Second Year

The votes are in. And the outcome is meaningless.

Rand Paul CPAC 2014

The Conservative Political Action Conference concluded its 2014 session yesterday with its traditional straw poll and, as he had last year, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul ended up winning by a wide margin:

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—Rand Paul handily won the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, one gauge of the Republican base’s mood less than two years before the 2016 primary season kicks off.

The Kentucky senator received 31 percent, far ahead of second place Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who received 11 percent. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson finished third with 9 percent, ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who received 8 percent.

The announcement came at the end of the group’s annual three-day confab. Organizers said that 2,459 attendees voted on computer kiosks.

(See POLITICO’s full coverage of CPAC 2014)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum tied for fifth place, with 7 percent.

Paul, who spoke at the conference on Friday, also won the 2013 straw poll. As the results were announced at a resort just outside the Washington Beltway, the crowd erupted and began chanting “President Paul” while waving “Stand with Rand” signs.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who finished second last year just behind Paul, fell to seventh place, receiving only 6 percent. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) finished eighth, with 3 percent – tying Texas Gov. Rick Perry.


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who finished second last year just behind Paul, fell to seventh place, receiving only 6 percent. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) finished eighth, with 3 percent – tying Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Four others pulled 2 percent: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

As I said, this is the second time that Senator Paul has won the CPAC Straw Poll, and it follows up similar wins pulled off by his father in 2010 and 2011. In all four cases, it seems apparent that the victory was thanks in no small part to the enthusiastic support that both Pauls seem to get from college aged voters and what has been a rather obvious effort by the campaigns to “stuff” the ballot boxes of the straw poll by subsidizing their appearance at the conference via the payment of ticket prices and the like.

However, they accomplish it, though, it honestly doesn’t mean a darn thing.  As James Joyner noted in last year’s post about Senator Paul’s victory, the CPAC Straw Poll has little correlation to political reality. Like the Ames Straw Poll that will unfortunately receive far too much attention in the summer of 2015, the CPAC poll is unrepresentative, unscientific, and easily manipulated as has been demonstrated time and time again.  Indeed, only four times in the past 38 years — Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, George W. Bush in 2000, and Mitt Romney in 2012 — has the winner of the CPAC poll gone on to win the GOP nomination, and only three times has the winner of the poll actually ended up being elected President.

Despite all of this, of course, Paul’s back-to-back wins at CPAC, which he very well might repeat again next year, will no doubt get him a lot of press and will serve to fuel speculation about his Presidential intentions and fortunes in 2016. However, Senator Paul would do well to speak with Presidents Jack Kemp, Phil Gramm, Steve Forbes, George Allen, Rudy Giuliani, and Ron Paul before letting this go to his head.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mark Ivey says:

    Rand can grift some good money now……

  2. Stonetools says:

    It’s another brick in the wall showing that Rand Paul can be a viable presidential candidate. It doesn’t really have to “mean anything”. Think too of the donors. It does focus the attention of potential donors and in modern politics donors mean a lot.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    Once again, the first question that should be asked for all Republican candidates is which states will Rand Paul win that were won by President Obama in 2012. Does anyone really believe that Rand Paul can win in Virginia, Ohio, or Colorado?

  4. CSK says:

    @Mark Ivey:

    He’s nowhere in Sarah Palin’s league. She even managed to work a none-too-subtle plug for her upcoming reality show into her speech.

  5. Pinky says:

    Politico calls it one guage of the Republican base’s mood. Doug calls it meaningless. That just goes to show that Doug understands politics better than Politico.

    Sorry, Doug, if that comes off as damning with faint praise.

  6. ernieyeball says:

    Does anyone really believe that Rand Paul can win in Virginia, Ohio, or Colorado?

    Win what? The 2016 Presidential election? Or the Libertarian Party nomination in those States to run for that Office?

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Pinky: I own furniture that understands politics better than POLITICO. Of course my furniture isn’t trolling for page views, sucking up to the Beltway circle jerk, or posting paid content.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    It’s great fun to laugh at CPAC every year, but Doug and James, these people are your party. (Yes, I know, Libertarian. Whatever.) As I’ve said before, where do Republicans find these people, and why?

    I know, James, the GOPs didn’t find them, they found the GOPs. But your party DID find them. Your politicians gleefully participated in the positive feedback loop of the Conservative Echo Chamber. Your donors gleefully funded it. Rick Santelli makes a counter-factual rant, the radio talkers pick it up, the Kochs fund a graphic wrapped bus, the Tea Party appears, your politicians repeat the nonsense to the TP, the radio talkers pick it back up and repeat it a little more extreme; and around the loop again. WIKI “positive feedback”. That’s what you guys have going. And your Republican Party is boosting it. How many national GOP pols have ever said “Obama is a US citizen”?

    Have you ever contemplated the fact that your party can only win by appealing to people detached from reality?

  9. ernieyeball says:

    @gVOR08:..I own furniture that understands politics better than POLITICO.

    Do you talk to it or is it just for sittin’ in?

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @ernieyeball: The furniture doesn’t really talk. But that means it’s never told me anything stupid, so it does seem better than POLITICO.

  11. Michael says:


    Looks like your furniture beat you out as well.

  12. In the so-called scientific polls Rand Paul is within sampling error distance from Chris Christie — something that Ron Paul never achieved in relation to Mitt Romney or any other Republican front runner. It’s pretty darn easy to pull out recollections of what Rand Paul’s father did or did not accomplish. It would require work to find out what is going on in the here and now. The landscape is changing and so ought to your tunes.