US conservative activists picked Tea Party favorite Senator Rand Paul on Saturday as their choice to become the 2016 Republican presidential nominee.
Paul, popular among the younger conservatives who thronged to the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, narrowly beat Senator Marco Rubio -- also tipped to seek the White House -- 25 to 23 percent in the CPAC Straw Poll.
The Kentucky lawmaker saw his profile raised after mounting a 13-hour, non-stop filibuster in the Senate earlier this month to block John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA.
He used the blocking tactic to press for answers from President Barack Obama's Democratic administration on the scope of its drone policy.
Former senator Rick Santorum, a 2012 hopeful, received eight percent of the vote, closely followed by rising Republican star Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey with seven percent and Representative Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate to oust Obama from the White House, with six percent.
Some 2,930 CPAC participants participated in the straw poll.
"We convened thousands of energized conservatives today at this 40th annual national CPAC 2013 from across the entire country," said Al Cardenas, chairman of The American Conservative Union.
"It's been a longstanding and fun tradition at CPAC national as well as our regional CPACs to poll the attendees and get their opinion on a number of important issues."