Kentucky's freshman Republican Sen. Rand Paul narrowly won the Conservative Political Action Conference's (CPAC) annual straw poll today for the group's preference for president in 2016. Sen. Marco Rubio came in a close second, just 2 points short of Paul's 25 percent.
Paul's victory came as no surprise to the National Jewish Democratic Council, which issued a press release sharply criticizing the choice a day in advance of the actual vote. It faulted him for opposing foreign aid to Israel and for advocating a containment policy for Iran.
Here's how NJDC executive director Aaron Keyak put it:
“Regardless of political affiliation, American Jews should be alarmed that the Republican Party’s core activists have selected Senator Rand Paul to be their preferred standard bearer for 2016. Senator Paul has called multiple times to cut and end American aid to Israel, and has refused to rule out a containment strategy vis-à-vis Iran. Paul’s misguided foreign policy views are nothing short of dangerous, and his growing legitimacy among the GOP’s base is only another reason why the vast majority of Jewish Americans consistently support the Democratic Party.”
Politico reports the runners up were: former Sen. Rick Santorum, 8 percent; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 7 percent; Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, 6 percent; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, 5 percent; Ben Carson, 4 percent; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 4 percent; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, 3 percent; former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, 3 percent. Other candidates received a combined 14 percent.
Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McConnell were not invited to the conference -- apparently too moderate -- but were on the ballot. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush asked to have his name taken off the straw poll list.
Paul is the son of former perennial Libertarian and Republican presidential candidate ex-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a longtime critic of Israel and foe of foreign aid. The younger Paul has sounded a much friendlier tone, declaring himself a friend of Israel. He also wants to cut aid to Israel, but says it would be for Israel's own good: to protect the Jewish state's sovereignty and independence from the United States.
In the past he has been criticized as well by the Republican Jewish Coalition for his opposition to aid to Israel, JTA reported.
Paul, a Tea Party favorite, got a rousing response when he addressed CPAC on Thursday, echoing many of his father's libertarian views. He got strong applause when he declared the old GOP "has grown stale and moss covered."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry told the group that Republicans lost the past two presidential elections because their nominees, Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain, were not conservative enough.
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