Sen. Rand Paul decisively won a straw poll held over the weekend in Michigan at a bi-annual gathering of Republicans, earning more than double the votes of rival New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, won 188 votes, or 36 percent, in the 2016 Mackinac Presidential Straw Poll. Christie came in at second with 82 votes, or 16 percent, in the poll.
“It’s always exciting to place first in anything,” Paul told The Daily Caller in a phone interview Sunday morning from Mackinac Island after the results were announced.
He noted that the Island is “overrun with limited government, small government conservatives.”
“Not too many liberals on the Island this week,” Paul said with a laugh.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came in with 42 votes, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got 39 votes. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz trailed behind at 36 votes. Of those at the conference, 526 voted.
According to the conference website, Michigan Republicans have been gathering on the island’s Grand Hotel every two years since 1953 for the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. In 2011, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the straw poll.
This year, speakers included both Paul and Walker, along with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.
Paul said he supports tying the passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government running to defunding Obamacare,
“I still support the defund effort,” he said. “I think it’s a bad idea to fund Obamacare. And I’m going to vote not to fund Obamacare.”
The House of Representatives passed a bill Friday keeping the government running, while defunding the president’s unpopular healthcare law.
“I’ve always been realistic,” Paul said, noting the Democratically-control Senate and White House. ”And my hope always was that the using the leverage of the Republican House would try to create the situation where Obamacare is less bad. The more likely scenario is that we push hard for what we believe in — which is defund Obamacare — and that we try to bring the president to the negotiating table,” he said.
Paul also criticized President Obama for accusing Republicans of wanting to shut down the government, if they don’t get what they want on defunding Obamacare.
“It’s completely the opposite,” Paul said of Obama. “If he doesn’t get 100 percent of what he wants, every less ounce of Obamacare without any compromise, passed all by Democrats, unless he gets everything he wants, he’s willing to shutdown government. So really it is a matter of trying to get the facts right here. That the president is the one who is refusing to compromise.”