Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is the top 2016 pick of Republican activists gathered in New Hampshire this weekend, a new survey found Saturday.This comes on the back of Paul winning his second consecutive straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul
Paul took 15 percent in the survey of attendees at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua by GOP firm WPA Opinion Research.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ran a close second with 13 percent. Dr. Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum tied at 11 percent. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal got 9 percent, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 8 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz got 4 percent, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Paul Ryan and former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton tied at 3 percent.
If Rand Paul can temper some of his more outlandish, off-the-cuff comments (which my Democratic friends like to report with glee), he will be a formidable candidate for the GOP nomination. The establishment wing of the GOP has strong support among current Republican officeholders and has lots of money, but has little energy or support among mainstream Republicans. The libertarian and populist (tea party) wings of the GOP is where the energy and enthusiasm is within the Republican Party.
I know some of my Republicans will point to Paul's dovish foreign policy stances as an electoral weakness, but I don't buy it. The GOP electorate has grown much more isolationist and libertarian. Paul reflects both of those views.
My guess is the establishment will coalesce behind Christie as the nominee and it will come down to Paul v. Christie for the nomination.