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Please begin with an informative title:

CPAC banner with dinosaurs and the goposaur
A hallway at CPAC 2013
It's not exactly the most meaningful thing in the world, but Rand Paul took home the honors in this year's CPAC Straw Poll. Among the CPAC attendees, Paul garnered 25% of the vote. Marco Rubio was a very close second at 23%, and Rick Santorum (yes, really) took third with a more mundane 8%.

That's actually maybe a less impressive win for Paul than I would have expected. As those of you who have been following my posts from here at CPAC for the past few days, the audience seems to made up primarily of two groups: young libertarian types on one side, and older tea party types on the other. Given that both those groups have some heavy admiration for Rand Paul, you'd perhaps expect him to run away with the thing. Then again, Rand Paul's primary contribution to American discourse so far has been from his family connection to Paul the Elder and from his recent filibuster performance, so even this is a pretty good showing for a relative political newcomer. (It should also be noted that at one point during today's presentations, a convention organizer at the podium specifically stated, hint-hint, that there's no reason you can't vote more than once in the Straw Poll, and perhaps some people did.)

Again, it shows the split in the party that is very evident here. In announcing the results, In noting that the number of votes cast the last two years have trended modestly down each year (less than 3000 votes were cast this year; I believe event organizers were claiming an overall attendance of 10,000), Tony Fabrizio supposed it was because the conservative movement "hasn't quite come to consensus yet." Rand Paul is the libertarian choice, and has strong support in among the Tea Party. Marco Rubio is the more conventional, party-groomed candidate. Rick Santorum has strong support here from the fundamentalists and outright theocrats (and, apparently, the racists), a smaller but persistently loud minority.

I'm not seeing a link to the full poll results yet, but the results match up pretty closely with my own observations here, which is good because it means I'm not blind or daft, at least not yet. A very dominant 52 percent of Straw Poll voters were from people between 18-25, which matches up with the crowd here; while perhaps half of all attendees aren't in that age range, they definitely make up a good half of the CPAC "core", the diehards who were here from the first moments on Thursday. There were twice as many men voting as women, which Fabrizio says "looks skewed, but isn't that different from previous years." A whopping 70+ percent list their top priority as being "limited government", and roughly the same percentage say that the deficit should be patched through spending cuts alone; only 16 percent say that pairing tax increases with those cuts would deb preferred.

About 50% of the attendees say the United States should step back from global military issues and let our allies "fend for themselves" more often. 86 percent say it's not all right to kill U.S. citizens using drone strikes, and 70 percent say it's not OK to spy on U.S. citizens. So there you go.

The bad news: sadly, the Straw Poll in reality doesn't mean all that much. While the announcers made the point that in the past they've asked the Straw Poll questions to a national sample and gotten pretty much the same results, demonstrating that these samples, too, should be reflective of America, in reality the odds that Rand Paul is going to be the dominant choice for the 2016 campaign are, to put it charitably, probably low.

You can see the full Straw Poll results (PDF) here.


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Originally posted to Hunter on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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