If there was any doubt whether conservatives want Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to run for president, that was banished Saturday night when he won the Values Voter Summit straw poll with 42 percent, giving him a double-digit advantage over his nearest competitors.
Cruz won the Family Research Council Action's contest -- often seen as an early indicator of which candidates would fare well in a GOP presidential primary -- while Ben Carson, a rising star in conservative circles, came in second, according to the group's news release. Both Carson and former GOP Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum -- who ran for president in 2012 -- received 13 percent of the vote, though Carson had one more vote than Santorum. GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) came in fourth and fifth, respectively, with 6 percent and 5 percent of the vote.
Family Research Council Action president Tony Perkins said in a statement that the results show conservative activists are looking for someone willing to challenge President Obama and the Democratic Party. Cruz has led the fight to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act, which has led to the partial government shutdown but has failed to impede the rollout of the landmark health-care law.
"The Values Voter straw poll reveals what conservative, Republican-leaning voters are looking for in a potential candidate. Values voters are looking for those who will refuse to be bound by the 'can't mentality' of the establishment and will challenge the status quo," Perkins said. "In short, values voters, many of whom did not fully engage in the last election, are looking for a leader that will inspire them by challenging President Obama and speak clearly and directly to the challenges facing America."
Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon who was recently hired to be a contributor at Fox News, has also attacked the health-care law known as Obamacare, comparing it during a Friday speech at the Values Voter summit to slavery.
"You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery," said Carson, who is African American. "And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control."
Carson won the vice presidential straw poll, with 21 percent of votes cast. Cruz came in second with 17 percent and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was third with 9 percent of the vote.