Ted Cruz wins presidential straw poll at Republican Leadership Conference
May 31st, 2014
03:43 PM ET
4 months ago

Ted Cruz wins presidential straw poll at Republican Leadership Conference

(CNN) – Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has won another straw poll, boosting his national profile and elevating his name among potential 2016 presidential contenders.

The firebrand freshman senator and tea party favorite was among a handful of 2016 hopefuls speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans this week.

Cruz finished in first place in the annual conference's presidential straw poll at 30.33%. Dr. Ben Carson, a Fox News commentator and conservative activist, finished in second with 29.38% while Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, was third with 10.43%.

Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Governor Rick Perry rounded out the top five, at 5.06% and 4.90%, respectively.

Neither Carson nor Paul spoke at the conference, but their support was a show of confidence by the traditionally more conservative crowd. The annual meeting of activists features of who's who of big-name Republican politicians. It is an important appearance for potential presidential candidates to make.

More moderate Republicans also skipped the conference, but many fared much worse in the straw poll. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came in dead last with 1.11% while Florida’s former Gov. Jeb Bush and current Sen. Marco Rubio and came in seventh and eighth at 4.42% and 3.32 %, respectively.

Cruz's address was among the most popular. He was interrupted several times by cheers and standing ovations - especially when he told the crowd he was "convinced" the Republican Party would retake control of Congress in the midterm elections this fall.

Cruz won the Values Voter summit's presidential straw poll last fall, and came in second to Sen. Paul in this year's straw poll at the big Conservative Political Action Conference.

The potential 2016 presidential candidate said that across the country, people tell him that they are scared – of losing their freedom, losing their constitutional rights, and bankrupting their children and grandchildren.

"There is an urgency facing this country – there is an urgency in politics unlike anything we've ever seen," he said, arguing those fears were driving a new movement.

"America is waking up. We are seeing revival, we are seeing renewal, and together – mark my words – we are going to turn this nation around," he said.

Cruz highlighted his past battles with what he regards as the Washington elites, Democrat and Republican, in the fight over drones, gun rights and filibusters. But he cited a "tsunami" of populist power, a wave of grassroots support as the core of those victories.

"Thank you!" he exclaimed to a shout of thanks from the audience. "Nobody cares what any politician in Washington says. Power in politics, sovereignty in America is with we the people, and that is the path to turning this country around, empowering the people."

That wave will unseat Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, and force Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, out, he said to applause and cheers. A conservative Democrat, Landrieu faces a tough re-election this fall, and the crowd of Louisiana Republicans is eager to unseat her and strip the Democrats of their majority status.

Sounding like a candidate on the trail, Gov. Perry took the occasion to tout his record in Texas, on everything from job creation to reducing nitrous oxide emissions.

“The best ideas can be found in the states, where innovative policies get replicated all the time,” said the two-term governor. “And I have never been afraid to borrow good ideas, regardless of where they come from. No political party has a monopoly on good ideas.”

He argued the party should be the same way.

“If we are to win a majority in both houses of Congress and take back the White House, we must again be the party of big ideas,” he added later. “Americans are looking for leadership that transcends partisanship.”

Former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum also gave a passionate speech that called for a return to conservative values and slammed those who would compromise in order to win elections – a veiled swipe he has made before at moderate Republicans, like Gov. Christie.

"The problem with the Republican Party is that we have people in the party who don't believe in the very foundational principles of our party," said Santorum, going on to criticize the party's "moderate" funders, an "expert political class" from "dark-blue communities" in major cities.

"We talk to job creators, not job holders – and ladies and gentlemen, there are a lot more job holders than there are job creators," he said, with a message of economic populism that pushed the GOP to be "pro-growth and pro-worker," not just pro-business.

Santorum finished in ninth place in the straw poll, at 2.37%.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and business magnate Donald Trump were also in attendance at the conference - although none of them were included in the straw poll.

Former presidential candidate Herman Cain also spoke, and even hinted that he may run for president again.

Calling the Obama administration "a period of scandals and a crisis of leadership," the businessman and radio host told the crowd to "stay informed. The stupid people are out-voting us."

At one time the leading candidate in the 2012 Republican field, Cain also pushed back against the notion that Republicans don't reach out to minorities – citing himself as an example.

"What am I, chopped liver?" he exclaimed.

Cain was also not featured in the straw poll.

-CNN's Steve Brusk contributed to this report.

soundoff (644 Responses)
  1. Miguelito

    He looks like a mafia hit man. The last time we thought there was hope for the party, GW destroyed it thoroughly.

    June 1, 2014 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  2. Oy

    Tommy G, um....Osama ring a bell for you? How about the POW we just brought home? How about a national healthcare system?
    You people are ridiculous. Obama could cure cancer and walk on water and you'd still complain.

    June 1, 2014 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  3. Aloha

    "Yes" – Said every Democrat in America.

    =)

    June 1, 2014 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  4. C. J. Lysik

    Ted Cruz being born in Canada does not make him ably to be POUSA.

    June 1, 2014 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  5. jimmy

    Cruz is the downfall of the republican party. He will never be elected to anything outside of Texas or Canada. The republicans are done come NOVEMBER no matter what ted cruz seems to think.

    June 1, 2014 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  6. ardvrk

    TACO BOY!!!

    Go back to Canada.

    June 1, 2014 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  7. lib

    Here comes the crazy train.

    June 1, 2014 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  8. MIke

    This is great, let Cruz run! Please, please, let him be the GOP candidate!

    June 1, 2014 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  9. Coffee Party

    It's always the person with the BIGGEST MOUTH that wins these GOP polls.

    It's never the person with the best ideas, or the person willing to cooperate.

    June 1, 2014 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  10. Thatguy371

    Here come the righties, clueless as to their party croaking a slow death. Their ignorance, misogynist, racist, bigoted mantra... all will push them to extinction. They claim the left has the hate. Wrong. The right is full of ignorance and hatred, most of which is unfounded.

    June 1, 2014 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  11. hfdhesfe

    rethugs have ZERO chance of EVER winning the White House again.

    June 1, 2014 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  12. Coffee Party

    The gerrymandering point really nailed it.

    The GOP cannot win elections without manipulating the vote somehow.

    Their ideas have always been wrong for the average folks.

    As for the person who said the dems controlled the congress in 2007 and 2008. You are totally clueless and have no idea what a filibuster is. And even if something did pass Congress, George Bush would have vetoed any legislation in 2007.

    I love how you guys bury your heads in the sand and try to rewrite history. Face it.... the great recession began with your policies under your watch. Nothing can change it. Actually, you aren't trying to change it. You are simply trying to convince your brain dead voter base to believe a lie and doing a good job of it.

    They blindly parrot that talking point as if it's gospel because they don't understand what a filibuster proof majority is.

    June 1, 2014 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  13. jon

    Any chance of having NO POLITICIANS???? I doubt that situation would be any worse than it is now.

    June 1, 2014 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  14. snowdogg

    " the traditionally more conservative crowd"

    Well, theres a revelation.

    June 1, 2014 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  15. Donny

    The GOP must really want to lose in 2016 because America isn't going to elect this racist nutjob.

    June 1, 2014 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  16. Escher7

    Sure hope Cruz runs. Guaranteed victory for Dems.

    June 1, 2014 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  17. Terry B

    Let the nutcases roll out. Only ignorance by the American public will allow any of these terrible candidates and there brethren to win. Democrats should retain the senate and eight years of a Clinton presidency should help solve many of the countries myriad problems. With the GOP in control of anything we will really go down the rabbit hole and there will certainly be nothing wonderful about that.

    June 1, 2014 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  18. OlderBuWiser

    The Senate will go republican in 2014 with at least 52 republicans. That is already a foregone conclusion.

    June 1, 2014 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  19. Thomas

    For a guy who didn't make millions indirectly or directly from the government shutdown , Ted Cruz sure wears a bad tailored suit with confidence .

    June 1, 2014 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  20. Reality Check

    Freshman senator? This guy is completely inexperienced. And what about his father? Did he come to the US legally? Are we really so naive to believe he did not know he was fighting for the Communists in Cuba?

    Well, those are the objections I would expect if there were a "D" next to his name.

    June 1, 2014 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  21. Jeffc6578

    Please, oh please, republicans – run Ted Cruz as your man in 2016 – how absolutely fun would that be?

    June 1, 2014 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  22. Truth

    If Ted Cruz is the nominee I will not vote.

    June 1, 2014 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  23. jimmie

    Todd, The only thing America is advancing towards is Socialism with this administration, plus many Records, record debt, record laws on the books ignored, and record laws broken.

    June 1, 2014 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  24. Dan

    Cruz talks as if his backers represent the majority of this country. Thank goodness, they only represent 30%. Ghastly, a large number... too large in fact, but thankfully not anywhere close to a majority. The GOP is doomed as a national party until it can come back to the mainstream and be responsible again. It may win primaries and off-presidential cycle elections, but it cannot be sustained and will certainly never recapture the Presidency until the extreme Tea Party is purged.

    June 1, 2014 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  25. edmundburkeson

    What they are really trying to say is: This is who should run for President so that the Republicans don't have snowball's chance in the unspoken place that won't get you past the comment filters.

    June 1, 2014 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
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