CPAC Sets Benchmark for GOP Hopefuls

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is over and now the real jockeying for position in the GOP race for the presidential nomination officially begins.

In what surprised few, Sen. Rand Paul won the conference’s all-important straw poll for the third year in a row. The conference in recent years has trended Libertarian in terms of the voters in attendance (Ron Paul won in years past as well).

Coming in second to Paul’s 25% haul in the poll, however, was Gov. Scott Walker just four points behind. Continuing his rising star status, Walker’s second place finish marks the largest improvement over his fifth place finish in last year’s conference.

Following behind them for third and fourth place, respectively, were Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz, both at 11%, similar to their results last year. Rounding out the top five was Gov. Jeb Bush with 8%.

Perhaps more striking were the results for potential candidates who didn’t make the top five. Despite winning the Iowa Caucuses in 2012, Rick Santorum pulled in at number six, which gives pause for reconsideration of his chances in Iowa this time around.

Perhaps more stark was Sen. Marco Rubio’s seventh place position at a paltry 4%, which came as a surprise to some given his rousing performance in his CPAC speech just a day before the poll was taken.

Finally and unsurprisingly, Govs. Chris Christie, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal pulled last place finished even behind long-shot candidates Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. The poll was conducted with just over 3,000 votes, of which 47% were under the age of 25.