Rand Paul wins US conservative conference straw poll

US conservatives gathering at their annual conference Saturday chose Republican Senator Rand Paul as their top pick for president, for the third year in a row.

AFP| Updated: Mar 01, 2015, 05:50 AM IST

Washington: US conservatives gathering at their annual conference Saturday chose Republican Senator Rand Paul as their top pick for president, for the third year in a row.

Scott Walker came in a strong second place at the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, a reflection of the Wisconsin governor`s growing popularity among the party`s most ardent Tea Party conservatives ahead of the 2016 elections.

The libertarian-leaning Paul, son of former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, led CPAC`s field of 17 hopefuls with 25.7 percent, compared to Walker`s 21.4 percent.

Senator Ted Cruz was third at 11.5 percent, barely edging Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who has emerged as a powerful conservative voice in recent years, with 11.4 percent.

Cruz raised hackles in his own party in recent years when he helped push the US government into shutdown over budget fights, and for opposing Republican leadership on a series of issues. 

In fifth was former governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of presidents seen as the presumed Republican presidential frontrunner.

But the likely center-right candidate received a mixed reception, including heckles, when he courted CPAC`s conservative attendees Friday.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose approval ratings have suffered a dramatic slide in recent months, placed a dismal 10th with 2.8 percent.

A total of 3,007 votes were cast between Wednesday and Friday at CPAC, according to a tally by The Washington Times, which helped organize the poll.

The vote is watched closely, not necessarily as a prediction of exactly who will emerge as the Republican presidential nominee, but as a barometer of how the party`s core conservatives see those who might end up on the ballot.