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

    This is an exercise in foolishness. Cruz wasn't even born in the USA. Only one of his parents was a US citizen. Cruz is disqualified from being president, just like any other immigrant.

    May 31, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  2. Belz

    Cruz is a snake oil salesman he’s not really an option for president.

    May 31, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  3. zapped

    Guess we know who the next prez will be -

    May 31, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  4. Pat in IL

    This is a joke, right?? A very stupid and scary joke.

    May 31, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  5. nwcommenter

    You'll NEVER win the west coast.... and that's required to win the White House.

    May 31, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  6. mstipton

    I'm so glad I left the GOP in 1992. This party is full of kooks and crackpots. Just when I think they have reached a new low they continue to lower the bar.

    May 31, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  7. eqgold

    Oh goodie, this is a dream come true, Ted Cruz! Only Ted Nugent could top that.

    May 31, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  8. David

    That’s a blow to US authoritarian socialists.

    May 31, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  9. nwcommenter

    Without California, no GOP person will win the White House...

    May 31, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  10. Kevin

    Look at all of the Republican cheerleaders here. Don't you realize that most of the countries' problems can be laid at the feet of the backwards, obstructionist Republicans. What's ironic is that the vast majority of people who vote for Republicans are harmed by their policies. They get so worked up by Fox and other right wing screamers that know if you scare people and anger them they are easily manipulated. A Republican strategist was recently quoted as saying; "The key to politics is fooling people without them realizing they are being fooled." Wake up people. Trickle down has never worked, yet that is the Republicans economic philosophy. Why else would they attempt to add another 300 billion dollars to the deficit to give tax breaks to the wealthy. Republicans voted to cut spending for education and veterans so they could give tax cut to rich people. They don't represent the average person they only care about taking care of their rich donors. Quit being saps. Look beyond all of the ridiculous propaganda and see the massive harm their policies are doing to our country.

    May 31, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  11. Steve

    So the birthers want to nominate a Cuban born in Canada? Unfortunately, the party of stupid can't spell big words like irony. This is the best possible news for Democrats, pushing the most un-electable excuse for a so-called Republican.

    Republicans need to dump the loonies and social stupidty, and get back to fiscal conservative policy and intelligent policies. Republicans used to be the party of big ideas and an open tent. John Huntsman could have won big in 2012; he just was not crazy enough for the primaries. This country can not survive the anti-science agenda of people that have sold this country down the drain to hidden money.

    May 31, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  12. rconatser1

    Oh please, pretty please, nominate that far-right moron Cruz. That way, it doesn't matter which Dem we nominate – we'll slaughter them. So many stupid people in the GOP. It keeps working against them with the losers they pick to run. Awesome.

    May 31, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  13. PtBarnumBoy

    Looks like a Hillary landslide to me. I've given up on the GOP

    May 31, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  14. Bill

    The democrats are equally guilty of gerrymandering every time they take control of a state legislature

    May 31, 2014 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  15. Brandon

    I find it funny how people claim the Democrats as well as the President isn't getting anything done to help America, but it's being advertised on television daily and on the world wide web. They are trying but keep getting blocked by Republicans. Name some bills that the Republicans introduced or have passed that benefited the American people. I'll wait. The truth is that there hasn't been any helpful bills or common grounds from the Republicans since 2010. You want to blame no jobs for American people. Republicans blocked at least 6 job bills that would benefit American people as well as Veterans. Who blocked funding to the Veterans for medical and job security? Republicans. Too busy trying to up taxes on the poor and give tax breaks for the rich. Do you seriously think the 1% receiving more money is going to help the American people with work? Name some of the 1% who have helped build jobs here in America for the middle and lower class. I'll wait. Truth is that there haven't been any.

    Hopefully the Democrats will take both houses so progress can be made. So many people have been worrying about the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare failing but it's working. Maybe Democrats aren't wrong, maybe they're right about a lot of things but the Republicans are too scared to upset mommy and daddy Koch.

    May 31, 2014 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  16. Kathy, AZ

    Once again - the GOP will have no real contender for president

    May 31, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  17. Mack

    Ted is controlled by his father, Rafael Cruz, who has had three passports, three religions, and an unknown number of wives. After eight years of Dear Leader this nation needs stability and growth, not another nutter.

    May 31, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  18. Dan5404

    What a joke! The Democrats should pray that the GOP is so extreme right-wing that they are crazy enough to think this extremist jerk has the slightest chance to run our country. He would be destroyed in the election and hopefully leave enough reasonable Republicans to keep a viable GOP alive and able to maintain the two-party system. I am a lifelong Democrat, but would prefer that a Republican Party survives that is at least willing to discuss compromise and finally get something done after years of wasting their salaries by not doing their job.

    May 31, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  19. UmpireSam

    what is he running for President of Cuba ?

    May 31, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  20. Janice

    Donna.. seriously? That must be some GOOD weed.

    May 31, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  21. Miles Long

    {snicker}

    Miles "Nothing Like Climbing On A Loser's Bandwagon" Long

    May 31, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  22. Ven Haris

    Democrats are tired of being CHUMPS. Now having seen the GOP's leaderships true colors the Republicans are feeling like CHUMPS as well. It's time to get back to basics. It's like I tell my teenage girls... There is no future in being a Clinton/Obama Authoritarian Liberal. If you must call yourself a Liberal then follow Thomas Jefferson, Ghandi, JFK, RFK, and MLK... Not perfect but champions of the people and lovers of Humanity non the less.

    May 31, 2014 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  23. Miles Long

    {snicker}

    Miles "Another Loser In A Long Line Of Republicans" Long

    May 31, 2014 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  24. ja

    Great, maybe he will win the nomination, which will guarantee, the DNC the presidency

    May 31, 2014 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  25. Alan

    Ted Cruz as the GOP candidate is every Democrats dream!

    May 31, 2014 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
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