Ted Cruz wins presidential straw poll at Republican Leadership Conference
May 31st, 2014
03:43 PM ET
6 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. Tim S

    "9 Democraic Senators from Red States"
    I guess there is hope after all that some people are seeing the truth

    June 1, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  2. MW3

    And this is why Republicans will lose again. Hopefully those being polled are in the minority on a national level, or it's a Democrat again in the White House. Romney lost me once he was forced to cater to the Tea Party, a group which to me can be classified as no better than any other "special interest" group.

    June 1, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  3. Agurusguru

    Again the GOP will shoot themselves in the foot by pushing a contender that is not electable.

    June 1, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  4. eastcoastmike

    Donna, your twisted logic is priceless....the economy and the banking system crash under Bush but its the Democrat's fault. When the economy recovers under Obama, you credit the republicans?
    Wow! They must be quite an incredible group! They've got you believing they could do no wrong.
    But at least you towed the party line and got Benghazi in there somewhere......

    June 1, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  5. Robert N. constant

    Ted Cruz was instrumental in closing down the government. and he wanted the US to default on its financial obligations. He lied to get elected to the Senate saying his father fled from Castro;s Cuba. His father actually fought for Castro, then deserted and bribed his way out of Cuba. Cruz has opposed any kind of Immigration Reform. The Hispanic Community consider him a Judas Goat. He agrees with Republican "Joe the Plumber" who says " Dead kids do not trump my Second Amendment Rights." Ted Cruz is slightly to the right of Ghengis Khan.

    June 1, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  6. skyjord

    So Ted Cruz has proved himself once again to be the favorite among the idiot fringe. The same trophy once belonged to Sarah Palin, but Cruz is showing how to be yet more cringeworthy.

    June 1, 2014 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  7. lee

    Cruz is not going to be President.

    June 1, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  8. Old Salt

    Red States Unite... say goodbye to coal RSU...

    June 1, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  9. Denise

    Cruz didn't win the CPAC, so RINOs now want to pretend that it doesn't matter. Cruz is ineligible. Nominate him and the GOP loses my support and the support of many more conservatives.

    June 1, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  10. Denise

    Cruz can't be trusted because he will not acknowledge that he is ineligible to be POTUS.

    June 1, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  11. Rob K

    His quote says it all:  “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.”

    Notice how he's including himself as a PART OF, NOT as the solution to what WE need to do with our country to change it? In this day of tired politics and constant campaigning, it's important words like these that send a signal to everyday people. If you stand up for what you believe – popular or not, it can resonate and inspire.

    I don't care if you like Cruz. At least he's not afraid to sacrifice himself politically while speaking his mind. Like you and I, he puts his pants on one leg at a time, but in this day of tired politics at least he decided to wear some. Yes I'm looking at you Boehner. Cry me a river.

    God Bless

    June 1, 2014 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  12. 13directors

    He'll never be president and if this is who they're going to throw all weight behind, then this is a good sign actually.

    June 1, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  13. Supie

    I could not find any T V coverage of this event... It would have been a real freak show to watch, better
    than Animal Plant. Can you imagine what will happen if one of those people wins the nomination.
    Goodbye G O P

    June 1, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  14. Dave - Phx

    Wouldn't vote for any of those nutjobs.

    June 1, 2014 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  15. keyser

    Kind of dig his child-baring-hips.

    June 1, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  16. TCP?IP

    Teddy ( born in Canada) might fit this – from the front page of CNN

    Religious OCD: 'I'm going to hell'

    He (Cruz) always talks about the place no

    June 1, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  17. Nancy

    "Dr. Ben Carson, a Fox News commentator and conservative activist, finished in second with 29.38%"....wee bit of liberal media bias there, how about world renowned pediatric neurosurgeon?

    June 1, 2014 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  18. Tigerclaw

    lol I sure do sense a lot of liberal butthurt here. Could it be you see your party taking it's rightful place in the backseat (or even the trunk)?

    June 1, 2014 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  19. Sphinctre

    But Ted Cruz, wasn't born on American soil, so there's that.... But don't tell that to the tea baggers.

    June 1, 2014 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  20. Archer

    I'd love to see a Carson/Cruz ticket. That'd be some serous awesome.

    June 1, 2014 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  21. Jennifer

    So Ted Cruz who's NOT a US citizen can be President, but Obama who happens to be a US citizen can't legally be President? Wow!

    June 1, 2014 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  22. Chuck

    People in the same box only vote for people in that box. Think outside the box? OMG... Surely death will follow...lol

    June 1, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  23. Chris

    Good to see the GOP continues to offer up potential presidential candidates that make it easy for me to vote for the "other guy"! Given that the GOP keeps running the same old tired names that couldn't make it before just confirms my belief they are finished as a political party.

    June 1, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  24. mark

    Death to all tyrants I mean politicans

    June 1, 2014 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  25. KCview

    @Todd

    America has changed for the better? Please do enlighten me Todd.

    June 1, 2014 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
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