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

    Karl Rove was CERTAIN that Romney was going to Win – Even after the race was called for Obama
    The GOP / Tea Party / Neo-Cons are so 'Reality Challenged' they think REAL Americans don't HATE them

    May 31, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  2. oneSTARman

    Karl Rove was CERTAIN that Romney was going to Win – Even after the race was called for Obama

    May 31, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  3. Lily

    This man Green Eggs and Ham always talks nonsense. "Retaking Congress"! You retake something you lost and get it back. They have now the Congress. What is he going to retake then? What is he talking about?

    May 31, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. don in albuquerque

    Donna
    Dream on Baby. Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha.

    May 31, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  5. Pol1tical

    That's what they thought in 2012, too. All the polls at Fox said they would. Look at how that turned out. Their number one goal wasn't to fix the economy nor to get more jobs. It was to make this president a one term official. What say you about that?

    May 31, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  6. Liz the First

    If people are stupid enough to put republicans in charge of the Senate and leave them in charge of the House, we deserve what we get. Obama will be very busy vetoing monstrous laws that attack everyone but the rich. i can't believe we are a country that has that many stupid people in it.

    May 31, 2014 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  7. Mike in Texas

    Jeez Donna,

    Please tell us what policies that were not in place prior to 2007 did the Democratic Congress vote on and send to President Bush to sign and put into law that wrecked the economy. Either you will lie as you do about the Obamaphone or you won't have an answer. Time correlation is not an appropriate answer, because that's really all you are saying.

    Please, the VA has been going for years but I bet not a peep from you when Bush was in office creating thousands of new veterans due to two unfunded wars and the on top of that cutting VA spending. Donna, do you hate the President that much that it makes you stupid to the facts? You come on here and blabber talking points and hatred towards others who don't hate like you do. It seems like you're not happy unless your bitter.

    May 31, 2014 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  8. oneSTARman

    ..because Karl Rove guaranteed him that they would – just like he did for President Romney

    May 31, 2014 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  9. Joe

    I just don't see Christie or Bush being the Republican nominee. They can't win the nomination with Cruz and Carson. I have a dark horse though: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. He's been a conservative star for years now.

    May 31, 2014 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  10. blacktalkradionetwork

    Canada should take back Ted Cruz

    May 31, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  11. Beela

    I'm pretty sure we could beat Ted Cruz with Scarlett Johansson. And provably get a whole lot more accomplished..

    May 31, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  12. Curatica

    I hope this country will be spared the rule of this base and disgusting man. America deserves better.

    May 31, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  13. Thomas

    Green Eggs and Ham 2016 .

    We need a leader who doesn't care !

    May 31, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  14. Craig

    Nothing would ensure the demise and completely collapse of the GOP like Cruz as the nominee. He's even out Palined Palin, something thought largely impossible. The Democrats could run Chester from Gunsmoke and still win.

    May 31, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  15. Mike Brown

    So the winner of the straw poll means he has the most straw in his head?

    As a life long Republican, I will never vote for Cruz. In fact if he, or Perry or Mike Lee (my own 'choke choke, cough cough) Senator, were to get the nomination, I would vote Green Party. I won't vote for Hillary, but will never support a Tea Party straw head either.

    May 31, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  16. maximusvad

    Ah yes....the Republican clown show has begun...it will be entertaining watching them spend billions to lose the general election.

    May 31, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  17. Red

    Baseball, Apple Pie, Satan, GOP and Chevrolet!

    May 31, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  18. lilspenny

    So 60% of people voted for Cruz and Carson - both complete ideologically obsessed nutjobs. Then you look at someone who is kind of serious and is a legitimate small-government conservative like Rand Paul and he basically gets nothing. Shows you the Tea Party is obsessed with quixotic crusades like repealing Obama care, impeaching Obama, and investigating and re-investigating Benghazi. Also – trying to keep poor people from getting food and medicine and lowering the tax burden on rich people to 0 so working people can pay even more.

    May 31, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  19. MilitaryAF

    If Cruz runs for for the GOP in 2016, that should certainly help ensure the GOP loses through 2020.

    May 31, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  20. jobu282

    Good. Now, maybe he will win the GOP's nomination for 2016 and REALLY throw the election for the Democrats :-)

    May 31, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  21. ItSoNlYmE

    Ted (Mental Midget) Cruz vs. Hillary Clinton? BRING IT ON BABY!! BRING IT ON!!!

    May 31, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  22. mtnman28709

    While I'd prefer Rand Paul, I could settle for Cruz.

    May 31, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  23. Tommy in Wilton

    Oh please! Oh please.....!

    May 31, 2014 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  24. BUD

    Cruz is toast.
    Being from Texas Bush's state is a killer and no one from there will be elected to the top job for many years.
    Plus the T party's approval rating is much worse than the GOP'S which is bad also.

    May 31, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  25. Erin

    Cruz/Carson 2016

    Rand endorsed McConnell so he deserves the same fate as Marco Rubio–adios amigos!

    May 31, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
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