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. Peter Beck

    This poll result shows most Republicans have no clue how much political trouble their party is in. Cruz is a Tea Party zealot willing to anger the GOP, and a Christian Zionist who has demonstrated his willingness to go to war for Israel (not remotely in America's interest but he doesn't seem to know that). Hint: America first, Mr. Cruz! The plan should be to win both houses of Congress in the fall and the Presidency in 2016. That isn't going to happen on their present course.

    June 1, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  2. Red

    RUN, TED, RUN! (Paid for by the Democratic National Committee)

    June 1, 2014 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  3. juanmoretime

    Addie, just to make a comparison, I was born in Mexico to a mexican mother married to an american born WW2 and Korean war vet, yet I had to apply for citizenship at age 18. What makes this guy different? I would not vote for him for two reasons, 1. He never served and 2. He's a war monger. He was NOT BORN HERE!!

    June 1, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. james neeley

    It is amazing how Republican apologists continue to blame President Obama for the staggering national debt when the Reagan/Republican trickle-down, borrow and spend policy, ran the debt from less than $1trillion to $11.9 trillion by the end of the last Bush/Cheney fiscal year budget, all the while claiming that Reagan had proven that the debt doesn't matter.

    June 1, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  5. twalk

    Just show how much republicans are HYPOCRITES. Cruz was not born in the USA, therefore, he does not qualify. Also where is his birth certificate, college transcript, high school transcript, and Tax records??

    June 1, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  6. Bob

    Ted Cruz? A solid leader who can whip Hillary any day of the week....except the majority of the voting public is too stupid to vote for someone based on experience and leadership. Nope...Hillary or some other moron democrat is going to win. All they have to do is promise free stuff at the expense of others...its winning formula...worked for Obama. The GOP might as well just save the money and skip bothering to field a candidate in 2016. Lets wait for the money to run out and all the wonderful parts of Obamacare to go into effect....then America will realize there is no free lunch.

    June 1, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  7. sharon

    tesla0x0 – to be considered a natural born citizen of the United States at least one parent must be a US citizen – do you always discount women? or be born on US soil (that included the Panama Canal Zone, so McCain is a natural born citizen). Obama was born in Hawaii, after it became a state so he is a citizen. Cruz' mother was born and raised in Delaware but his father was Cuban and did not become a US citizen until 2005 – so your criteria must also mean that Cruz is not a citizen.

    June 1, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Lew Craig

    If Cruz were to be the nominee for the Republican party, I'd vote Hillary. In my 70 years I've never voted for a Democrat for president, but I would this time. Of course, he isn't even constitutionally qualified so I don't know what he thinks he's doing.

    June 1, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  9. Will

    I love news articles about Republican presidential contenders. It brings out all the crazy in all the liberal crazies. lol.

    June 1, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  10. Mistress

    Wow, if this is their best, Dems are sure to win in 2016.

    June 1, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. Gary Berman

    Another gift for the Democrats.

    June 1, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  12. Jack Thompson

    In the immortal words of Bill Murray's character in meatballs (Tripper) "It just doesn't matter, it just doesn't matter". For those of you out there planning on voting for Cruz, Hillary, Brush III, Obama (third term), Barney the dinosaur none of them are going to make a difference. Whoever gets in there is going to have to make some massive cuts in order to keep this train from derailing and in the end they will be vilified for it. It's going to be like a child hating a parent for punishing them for their transgressions. The current "cuts" are no different than a person with cancer arguing with their doctor that instead of chemo or surgery how about just trimming my nails. I'm not even sure that will be able to turn this around come 2016.

    June 1, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. cbp

    Not sure if Senator Cruz can gather the support that he needs to be elected President So far his wins have occurred during straw polls. His speeches have been more polarizing and that is very disconcerting.

    Those who represent us in Congress do so because we have elected them to serve. Our country relies on those elected to govern in the best interests of the citizens. Sometimes this means that compromises must be made and those who cannot compromise do create problems. Right now we have another do nothing Congress and a House of Representatives that does not seem to bring forth new legislation which has the backing of all in Congress.

    June 1, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  14. sharon

    Juanmoretime, I believe someone born to a US parent and a non US parent had to decide at 18 which citizenship they want. Did you go through the naturalization process or just fill out paperwork? I have 3 nieces all Canadian/US. 2 lived in Canada, one in US. All were registered with the Canadian embassy (the US born one) or the US embassy (the Canadian born ones) and had to make a decision at 18. Not quite the same as having to go through the naturalizaton process. In my nieces cases, each elected the country they were raised in.

    June 1, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  15. slempy

    Well, at least this will save me the hassle of having to go vote next time around.

    June 1, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  16. livinginva

    juanmoretime: You should not have had to apply for citizenship. My niece and nephew were both born overseas to an American father and non-American mother. They were able to obtain US passports at birth (my nephew traveled on his when he was weeks old) and have had to do nothing to maintain their US citizenship.

    June 1, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  17. skyjackal1

    sorry, cut away all of the rhetoric including Cruz' infantile filibuster last year, we cannot simply have a president who looks like a scared ferret! Plain and simple, you have to look presidential to be presidential, and this guy sure isn't it...maybe he can be Secretary of Animal Look Alike Dept???

    June 1, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  18. Jon

    If Ted Cruz is the best the GOP can do, they may have a real problem in 2016. Cruz is certainly not a 1st stringer. At best he be a 'maybe' bench warmer. He is not presidential timer. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be anyone in the GOP I'd waste a vote on.

    June 1, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  19. mike

    The top two candidates of the republican party are a man of Hispanic ancestory and an African American. Both are mostly supported by the conservative wing of the party. You know, the tea party, that's supposed to be racist. Funny that their top two picks are what the left calls minority groups. Truth is, if you're truly a non racist, you see the person first and not the group that society insistently and constantly tells you the person must belong to.

    June 1, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  20. Timothy Germann

    The Ames Strawpoll: Perhaps the biggest indicator in American politics of who will either not be nominated or lose outright. What a joke.

    June 1, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. Political Hostage

    I'm so glad to see people totally ignorant of Cruz. You folks keep thinking that. When you put the Alynskite next to someone that outwardly love the USA, the difference will be staggering.

    June 1, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. Polijukie

    Cost the country 24 billion in the government shutdown, belongs to the party that lost us our AAA credit rating from S &P, selling this country slowly to the Koch Brothers, Cruz is a former advisor to George W. Bush (that's how he met his wife, they both worked on the 2000 Bush Campaign), and attempted another shutdown this year...sell crazy elsewhere, because we're all stock up here in Texas.

    June 1, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. Republican

    Ted Cruz, the foreign born politician.

    June 1, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. early cuyler

    Run, Mrs. Clinton, run!! Bring on the debates. We can't wait.

    June 1, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  25. DFW Dann

    It seems appropriate that the candidate most resembling the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz would win a "straw" poll.

    June 1, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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