Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul extended his winning streak to a third straight year in the Conservative Political Action Conference's straw poll of 2016 Republican presidential candidates — edging Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by just 5 points.
"I am humbled by the enthusiastic support and encouragement I received this week at the conference," Paul said in a statement to Fox News. "Our party is filled with constitutional conservatives who have chosen to stand with me for a third consecutive straw poll victory.
"Since President Ronald Reagan, the Conservative Political Action Conference has been the gold standard on where conservatives stand," the senator continued. "The constitutional conservatives of our party have spoken in a loud and clear voice today."
Paul won 26 percent of the votes cast by the 3,007 registrants at the three-day conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington.
Walker won 21 percent of the vote — followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, with 11.5 percent; retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, with 11.4 percent; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, with 8.3 percent.
All of the other names listed received under 5 percent
. Seventeen names were on this year's ballot, down from 25 last year.
None of the Republicans in the survey has formally entered the 2016 race.
"It was very close this year," said Kellyanne Conway, founder of the Polling Company, which conducted the poll. She announced the results with Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which sponsors the conference.
"I think the CPAC straw poll represents how fluid and open the race is," Conway said.
The number of participants in the poll was up 20 percent over last year, she said. Forty-two percent were students.
Paul gave a rousing speech
to the conference on Friday — slamming former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's actions in the war in Libya and charging that they should disqualify her from the White House.
"Hillary's war made us less safe," Paul said. "Libya is less stable, and radical jihadists run amok.
"Hillary's war in Libya allowed thousands of surface-to-air missiles to fall into the hands of radical Islamists," he said.
Paul also referenced the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two former Navy SEALs, during the Benghazi attacks in 2012.
"I believe Hillary Clinton's abdication of responsibility, her refusal to provide an adequate defense to Benghazi, her dereliction of duty should forever preclude her from higher office," he said.
"It's time for Hillary Clinton to permanently resign."
While Paul again won the CPAC poll, his margin was down
from last year, though slightly higher than in 2013.
Last year, the senator took 31 percent of the vote cast by 2,459 registrants — and Paul won with 25 percent from 2,900 attendees in 2013.
By contrast, Cruz finished 20 points behind Paul last year, with 11 percent, and Walker had 7 percent. Carson finished with 9 percent in last year's poll.
Paul's father — the Republican-turned-libertarian Ron Paul, who ran for the presidency three times — won CPAC polls in 2010 and 2011.
While the annual CPAC poll generally serves as an indicator
of how conservatives feel about rising Republicans and presidential hopefuls, only three winners in the survey's 41-year history have become GOP nominees in the subsequent presidential election.
won straw polls in 1976 and 1980, going on after the later victory to become the nominee and later president. He also won in 1984 and was elected to a second White House term.
George W. Bush won the poll in 2000, before winning the nomination and then the presidency.
"We ran out of tickets on Thursday," Schlapp told the CPAC crowd before announcing this year's results. "For the last three days of CPAC 2015, you got to hear from the next president of the United States."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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