Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul edged out Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to win his third straight Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll on Saturday, an early indicator of which 2016 candidates conservatives are beginning to rally behind.
Paul received just under 26 percent of the vote, while Walker won approval from 21 percent of the 3,007 attendees who participated. Both likely presidential candidates spoke during the three-day conference.
The poll is an early sign of which candidates are generating the most excitement amongst conservatives, though it rarely proves an accurate indicator of who will win the Republican presidential nomination the year before an election.
Paul’s father, Rep. Ron Paul, won the straw poll in 2011. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the nomination the following year. Romney won the straw poll in 2007 and then fell to Sen. John McCain in the 2008 primaries.
Walker’s second place finish is another sign his popularity is surging amongst influential conservative activists.
Sen. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson nearly tied for third place in the poll, each earning above 11 percent of the vote.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush earned about 8 percent after his appearance that generated mixed reaction from the crowd on Friday.
Paul said in a statement that, "I am humbled by the enthusiastic support and encouragement I received this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference," and called the poll "the gold standard on where conservatives stand."
"The Constitutional Conservatives of our party have spoken in a loud and clear voice today," Paul said. "I plan on doing my part and I hope you will join me as I continue to make the GOP a bigger, better and bolder party."
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— Andrew Rafferty