Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has come in first in the Values Voter Summit presidential straw poll for the second year running. Receiving 25 percent of the votes cast, down from 42 percent in 2013, Cruz was the favorite for the 2016 Republican president nomination among the 2,000 social conservative activists at the conference on Saturday.
Dr. Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon, was second with 20 percent of the vote, up from 13 percent last year, while former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee came in third with 12 percent. Other speakers at this year’s summit include Rick Santorum, who was fourth with 10 percent, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, fifth with 7 percent.
One name often mentioned for 2016 fared less well among social conservatives. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who spoke after Cruz on Saturday with a more measured address, came in sixth — 7 percent chose Paul. In his speech, Paul attempted to show his pro-life and religious liberty credentials, but many participants appeared unconvinced.
Carson topped the vice presidential poll with 22 percent, while Cruz was second with 14 percent and Jindal third with 11 percent. The Republican Leadership Conference also put Cruz first and Carson second in a straw poll earlier this year — raising the prospect of social conservatives backing a Cruz-Carson ticket in 2016.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council Action which sponsored the annual conference, said that values voters are looking for leaders who “say what they mean and mean what they say.”
“They are looking for leaders who will take clear, unequivocal stands on the challenges facing our nation, not nuanced politically correct speeches. This is evidenced by those who finished top of this year’s straw poll,” he said in a statement.
Cruz’s vigorous speech to the summit has raised his standing among some activists. He warned the crowd that we are living in “dangerous, extreme, radical times,” and dubbed Democrats “an extreme, radical party.”
Stephen Jones, a retired accountant from Miami Beach, Fla. said, “I came here thinking I’d vote for Carson until I heard Cruz yesterday. I liked his passion. I felt he was the more spirited candidate.”
His sister Lavinia Griffin, a retired nurse, described Cruz as “passionate.”
“I felt we need someone who is really going to be able to portray what’s important with some strength,” she said. “After hearing him yesterday, that’s what persuaded me.”