- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Seventeen potential candidates, including current and former governors senators and political outsiders are part of the 2015 GOP presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which opened Wednesday and runs through Saturday just outside Washington.

The poll, sponsored by The Washington Times and conducted by the Polling Company Inc., lists Republicans who have indicated an interest and taken steps to plan visits to early primary states.

Thousands of conservative activists, including grass-roots leaders, members of conservative organizations and a healthy number of students, attend the annual convention, and the poll serves as an influential barometer of thinking among the right-wing base that helps power Republicans’ primary season.

Poll results will be announced Saturday evening.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has won the last two straw polls, demolishing the competition in winning 31 percent of votes cast in 2014, and nearly tripling runner-up Sen. Ted Cruz’s 11 percent. Mr. Paul will speak at CPAC and will be a strong contender for this year’s poll winner.

But the winner of the year-before straw poll hasn’t had great success winning the GOP’s nomination. Indeed, no straw poll winner of the year-before contest has ever won the GOP’s nomination in five iterations.

The 2011 winner was then-Rep. Ron Paul, who won in 2010, too. But he lost the 2012 nomination to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

For his part, Mr. Romney won the straw poll in 2007, the year before the 2008 election, but didn’t win the GOP’s nomination that year. Mr. Romney also won the straw poll in 2008, 2009 and 2012, for four total wins.

In addition to Sen. Paul and Mr. Cruz, the rest of this year’s list includes: Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired surgeon Dr. Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, businessman and reality TV show figure Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The straw poll also asks activists to name their second choice for president, testing the range of candidates that are acceptable to conservatives and potentially giving a glimpse at a successful vice presidential pick.

Among other questions, the poll also tests the level of support among conservatives for the National Security Agency’s phone-snooping program, legalization of marijuana, the Common Core education standards devised by the states, and, perhaps most critically, how the activists feel the government should handle illegal immigration.

At the Capitol, just a few miles away from the CPAC gathering in suburban Maryland, GOP leaders are grappling with that same immigration question, and are battling among themselves over how to push back against President Obama’s deportation amnesty.

CPAC attendees are asked whether they believe Congress should use its power of the purse to try to halt the president’s policy — a showdown that is playing out at the Capitol, and could lead to a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department if funding isn’t approved by Friday.

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