(LIN) — The race for the 2016 White House is on, and most of the top conservative candidates converged at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Regardless of party allegiance, all eyes are on those conservative contenders vying for the presidential spotlight and if they have what it takes to turn a weathered Republican Party back on its feet.
After CPAC 2016, a few made their place on the short list of GOP contenders for the 2016 election:
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul
Paul won the CPAC 2016 presidential preference straw poll, and was already a favorite after his 13-hour Senate filibuster on March 6. He received 25 percent of the straw poll vote at CPAC.
Paul expressed his concern over the direction the Republican Party has shifted toward in recent years, stating, "The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered." This comment is undoubtedly directed to the younger, libertarian-minded conservatives that make up a bulk of his following.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio
Following Paul in the CPAC straw poll was Rubio, who got 23 percent of the vote. Rubio delivered the GOP response to the 2013 State of the Union and is considered a rising star in the conservative movement.
When Rubio addressed CPAC attendees, he said the party isn't necessarily in turmoil.
"We don't need a new idea," he explained. "There is an idea. The idea is called America, and it still works."
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum
Santorum is no stranger to the presidential headlines, having run for office in 2012. The former Pennsylvania senator finished third in the CPAC straw poll with 8 percent of the vote.
Can Santorum compete with the younger contenders and rising stars in his party? Although his speech focused on traditional values, his was arguably the most well-received of CPAC, receiving a strong standing ovation.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Even though he wasn't invited to attend this year's CPAC, Christie finished fourth in the straw poll with 7 percent of the vote. Conservatives snubbed Christie this year presumably for his close work with President Barack Obama after Superstorm Sandy.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
Bush is also a potential candidate to look for in Election 2016, even though he asked his name not be included on the CPAC straw poll ballot. Lately, Bush has been speaking about a possible presidential run, especially while promoting his new book, "Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution."
Bush is both the son and the brother of two former presidents, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, and some speculate that his family's political baggage may be a reason he hasn't whole-heartedly committed to the race.
Bush spent his time at the CPAC podium attacking the "anti-everything" approach by the Republican Party.
"The face of the Republican Party needs to be the face of every American, and we need to be the party of inclusion and acceptance," he said. "It's our heritage and it's our future and we need to couch our efforts in those terms," he said.
Other straw poll contenders
The rest of the straw poll results included votes for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. These candidates received a total of 14 percent combined.
Just because they didn't fare well in the CPAC straw poll doesn't mean any of these candidates won't emerge later in the race for the White House.
While the possibilities for Republican presidential candidates still appear endless, one thing is certain after this year's CPAC: The party is striving for solutions to bring together fresh ideas and traditional ideals to give the GOP a more attractive image.
Whether this comes in the form of a new platform, a new strategy or a new face for the party remains unseen at this time.
Perhaps Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said it best when he addressed his party for the first time since his November loss:
"We have lost races before in the past, but those setbacks prepared us for larger victories," he said. "It is up to us to make sure we learn from our mistakes – and my mistakes – and that we take advantage of that learning to make sure we take back the nation, take back the White House, get the Senate and put in place conservative principles."
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