Ted Cruz wins presidential straw poll at Republican Leadership Conference
May 31st, 2014
03:43 PM ET
3 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. Donnie the Lion

    Whoa dudes, Obama has tried to get a jobs bill, an immigration bill, AND veterans assistance funding, and the GOP keeps sticking riders on that have nothing to do with those issues. Don't blame Obama for that.

    May 31, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  2. the3ddi3

    I love the hysterics Cruz provokes in libs... Cuba! Teaparty! Fox! Waaa waaa waaa. If you sit quietly and listen libs will tell you who the fear most. lol

    May 31, 2014 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  3. getalife

    Please run him so the cons lose three in a row.

    May 31, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  4. Francis Godiva

    As a Democrat, I can't tell you how thrilled I would be, if Ted Cruz won the nomination.

    May 31, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  5. V

    It's like Republicans aren't even trying to win anymore. If Cruz is the candidate....then you're just handing it to the democrats. Every time Republicans lose, they go even further right. They're clueless

    May 31, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  6. Donnie the Lion

    "A trillion dollar giveaway of borrowed money to Democrat boondoogles, Obamacare jammed down our throats, record unemployment, record people on food stamps, no jobs." Hiring is up, unemployment is down, and the Treasury made a profit on the TARP loans. What world are you living in? Where I have been living for the past 7 years, things have gotten a LOT better. More new housing being built and sold, more commercial development, and more jobs.

    May 31, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  7. John

    This is unbelievably good news for all Democrats................

    May 31, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  8. Ohioan

    Cruz? LOL The Tea Party will ensure a Hillary win in 2016!

    May 31, 2014 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  9. dotofoz

    So Republicans will support a president who was born on foreign soil, and is only a citizen, because his mother is a citizen, but Obama, born in Hawaii isn't a citizen? Is it ok for Cruz to be eligible, because he agrees with them or is it because it was Canada? Canada is not part of the US. He is not eligible to run for president. Period.

    May 31, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  10. flynn

    Cruz Carson 2016

    May 31, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  11. Richard

    American under the Democrats have resigned themselves to a horrifically high 13% true unemployment rate and astronomic debt. They definitely need a change, because despite the media supporting the Democrat party line, it hasn't worked.

    May 31, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  12. ColKlink

    He is not even American. Prior to the Civil War Cruz would not be able to run for political office.

    May 31, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  13. Larry

    What is the republican party planning to run on this time? They didn't say did they. TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH. Good luck running on that one – Dems get the white house again:)

    May 31, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  14. John line

    Love it. An actual Canadian wins their vote. Oh and he's not white.

    May 31, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  15. tine e

    If cruz was born in canada he can not run 4 president

    May 31, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  16. scranton

    Democrats dream.

    May 31, 2014 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  17. Ramon F Herrera

    Texas Latinos (the ones who created the Republic of Texas) despise Mr. Cruz.

    They periodically picket his office, chanting:

    "TEXAS HAS A CURSE...
    ... HIS NAME IS TED CRUZ !!!!!"

    May 31, 2014 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  18. Ramon F Herrera

    "My father would never be accepted by today's Republican Party"
    -Signed: Ronald Reagan, Jr.

    "Mine, either".
    -Jeb Bush

    May 31, 2014 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  19. Ryan

    Cruz/Palin 2016!

    Unstoppable, you betcha!

    May 31, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  20. H R Mickelson

    Please let Cruz be the GOP pick, it will be a cake walk for the democrats to win the election .

    May 31, 2014 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  21. independant jim

    what ever happened to " you must be a natural born citizen to be president " Was Donald trump wrong will the Donald demand to see Cruz birth certificate maybe you need to born in America only if your a democrat

    May 31, 2014 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  22. Yooper57

    Go for it Repubs this assures a Hillary win!

    May 31, 2014 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  23. Tom

    If the social conservatives insist on nominating Ted Cruz for 2016 then the GOP will loose. The cold hard truth is that social conservatives are not going to win a national election. The battle over social issues was lost 20 years ago when the millennials where in k-12 schools run by liberals. Realistically the GOP needs to run a candidate with a more libertarian approach to social issues or continue to loose elections nationally.

    May 31, 2014 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  24. underwaterops

    Should make for an interesting 2016 race.

    May 31, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  25. Mar

    To Tommy G, Don't blame Obama for the VA catastrophe, this has gone on as far back as Viet Nam and nothing was
    done then and I don't see it happening on a Cruz watch or Republican control. They always want a war, but when
    our men and women are in need, they all step to the back of the line. Its disgusting and all so called politicians should
    be ashamed! Red States Unite: your an indiot the state of Kentucky would like nothing better than to work in something
    other than the coal mines, but thanks to your great congressman Mitch old boy Kentucky will remain the poorest state,
    because he cares nothing for the people there. Kentucky as I have said before is more than the Derby!

    May 31, 2014 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
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