Sen. Ted Cruz trounced the competition in the presidential straw poll at the 2013 Values Voters Summit, with Dr. Ben Carson and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum coming in a distant second and third places — highlighting how Mr. Cruz has become a rock star with grassroots conservatives.
Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, which hosted the three-day event, announced that Mr. Cruz won 42 percent of the vote, while Mr. Carson and Mr. Santorum each captured 13 percent.
“I just spoke with Senator Cruz and he wanted me to convey to you his deep appreciation for your enthusiastic and warm welcome yesterday — and that he was very grateful to know that there are Americans across the country who are standing with him as he stands for your values here in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Perkins said.
Mr. Cruz was one of a handful of conference speakers — including Mr. Santorum and Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida — who are thought to be pondering White House bids in 2016.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who is not seeking re-election, also addressed the summit and has not ruled out another presidential campaign.
Mr. Paul finished in fourth place in the straw poll with 6 percent of the vote and Mr. Rubio finished fifth with 5 percent of the vote.
“Right now, Ted Cruz is really the leader of the conservative movement,” said Mason Griffin, 17, of Arkansas. “He is trying to push forward and get Obamacare out and get conservative back and strong.”
Others called the Texas Republican “Reaganesque” and applauded the way that he has stood his ground against Republicans and Democrats. “He is not backing down,” said Edward Szeto, 46, of Virginia. “He is standing firm on what he got elected on.”
The straw poll is one of the main events of the conference, taking the temperature of the thousands of social conservatives that turn out. It also found that those in attendees were most concerned about protecting religious liberty, supporting pro-life policies and repealing Obamacare. Dr. Carson, Mr. Cruz and Mrs. Bachmann were the top choices for vice president.
The summit also featured an exhibit hall full of groups promoting traditional family values and booths that focused on “liberal media bias,” sold “right-wing jewelry” and advocated for the ex-gay community.
The poll followed the news that talks between House Republicans and President Obama over the shutdown and the nation’s borrowing limit had collapsed miles away on Capitol Hill. It also followed an NBC News/Wall Street Journal that found Republicans are bearing the brunt of the blame for the shutdown, which many attribute to the strategy that Mr. Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah have spearheaded on Capitol Hill in an attempt to stop Obamacare.