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Political, campaign and national news
Sen. Rand Paul wins conservative CPAC straw poll - again

Sen. Rand Paul was the top choice of conservatives in a straw poll for potential Republican presidential contenders at an annual conservative conference near Washington.

The Kentucky Republican has been a repeat favorite among the GOP's right flank, and won the Conservative Political Action Conference poll for the third consecutive year.

Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker tallied a close second, while the remaining dozen or so contenders trailed, according to results in the Washington Times, which sponsored the contest.

Paul earned 25.7% of the vote, followed by Walker with 21.4%.

Most of the Republicans who took to the stage at the annual multi-day conference over the river from the capital have not yet officially declared their intentions to run for president in 2016.

But the conservative gathering provides a proving ground for the budding campaigns. The record-breaking crowd topped 11,000, organizers said.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took 11.5%, narrowly besting retired...

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Jeb Bush tells conservative skeptics he hopes to be their 'second choice'

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush defended his credentials as a “reform-minded conservative” Friday, even as he held firm to positions that threaten to undermine his standing with party activists, telling skeptics that he hoped to be their “second choice” to win the GOP presidential nomination.

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual proving ground for Republican candidates, the establishment favorite came with practiced quick answers and light quips for a 20-minute question-and-answer period with Fox News host Sean Hannity. He acknowledged his audience's suspicions, and laid out, gently, a case for broadening the party's appeal.

“There are a lot of other conservatives that haven't been asked. They don't know that they're conservative,” Bush said. “If we share our enthusiasm, love for our country and believe in our philosophy, we will be able to get Latinos and young people and other people that we need to win.”

Bush's appearance was his first before a large,...

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Congress passes one-week Homeland Security funding bill, Obama signs it

Congress approved a stopgap measure late Friday to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded for another week -- averting a crisis just before money was set to run out at midnight, but setting up a new standoff as conservatives press their fight over President Obama’s immigration plan.

The House passed the measure, 357-60, and the Senate approved it on a voice vote without objection just hours before funding was to expire. 

Shortly before the midnight deadline, Obama signed the temporary measure into law. 

The agreement to provide just one week of funding for the department emerged as a last-ditch compromise. The House rejected a three-week stopgap bill earlier Friday, a major defeat for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) that demonstrated the continued inability of Republican leaders to manage their majority and threatened the massive agency's ability to pay its workers and fund its programs.

House Republicans, who were trying to use the funding bill as leverage in their...

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Congressional Republicans continue to fight over Homeland Security funds

With money for the Department of Homeland Security set to run out at midnight Friday, Republican leaders in Congress struggled to convince their followers to fund the huge department now and fight President Obama's immigration policies later.

Like most high-stakes showdowns in Washington, this one appears likely to go down to the wire.

The Senate on Thursday moved forward with a compromise plan pushed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). It includes a straightforward bill to fund the department, which the chamber may pass as soon as Friday. The bill would not contain the immigration restrictions that had been attached by House Republicans.

In a nod to conservatives, McConnell has promised a separate vote on immigration policy once the Homeland Security funds have been approved.

The Senate's most conservative members had been forcing the Republican leader to run out the clock with procedural steps that might have delayed passage of the money bill until Sunday. But by Thursday...

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Sen. Ted Cruz seeks role of 'disruptive app'; some colleagues would hit delete

On a gray wintry day outside the Capitol, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stood on the grassy East Lawn and denounced President Obama’s plan to temporarily defer deportation for millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

Gathered to hear the senator was a band of enthusiastic supporters, including a few like-minded lawmakers and a handful of self-described patriots. “King Obama!” shouted one person in the crowd, which included a man in a tri-cornered hat and others waving the yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags of the tea party.

Inside the Capitol dome, fiery events like this are met with a collective eye roll, deflating Cruz’s currency as a power broker. More temperate legislators have grown weary of such events, which they say are effective at grabbing headlines but polarize positions and hurt the party’s brand.

That hardly matters out here in the drizzle — and across America, where Cruz is taking his distinct Republican orthodoxy to new heights.

On Thursday, as his fellow senators...

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Carly Fiorina, eyeing 2016, reboots, takes aim at Hillary Clinton at CPAC

Technology mogul Carly Fiorina muscled her way into the crowded field of Republicans positioning for a 2016 White House bid with a blistering attack Thursday on Hillary Rodham Clinton and an appeal to Republicans to consider nominating a woman.

It was a reboot for Fiorina, whose last foray into national politics did not go well.

The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive failed in her 2010 effort to defeat California's Sen. Barbara Boxer, the Democratic incumbent. Despite GOP excitement around Fiorina at the outset, her race was beset with missteps and a muddled message. Boxer ultimately skated to reelection.

But the Conservative Political Action Conference crowd, meeting here just outside Washington, found lots to like in Fiorina's remarks. She has spent the last few years engaged in conservative activism and burnishing her foreign policy credentials.

“Like Mrs. Clinton, I too have traveled" the globe, Fiorina said of the former secretary of State. “Unlike Mrs. Clinton, I know that...

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