Ted Cruz leads, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio drop in important GOP straw poll

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In a GOP straw poll of possible 2016 presidential contenders taken last week, Ted Cruz once again came out on top, while moderate Republicans such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio did not fare as well.

The freshman senator and tea party favorite from Texas was one of the leading speakers at the annual Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, reports CNN.

Cruz led the pack in the conference’s straw poll with just over 30%, followed by conservative activist Dr. Ben Carson with 29%. Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky came in third with a little more than 10%.

Rounding out the top five was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, each getting around 5%.

Among the Republicans skipping the conference, were former Florida Governor Bush and current Sen. Rubio, both moderates. The two fared much worse in the straw poll, coming in seventh and eighth at 4% and 3%, respectively. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was last with 1%

Although neither Carson nor Paul was speakers, the conservative crowd did show them significant support. The annual conference is a who’s who of big-name Republicans, and becoming a key venue for potential presidential candidates.

Cruz’s speech energized the crowd, which interrupted him with cheers and standing ovations, as he said he was “convinced” the GOP would take back control of Congress in the November midterms.

Last fall, Cruz led the presidential straw poll at the Values Voter summit and was second to Paul in the Conservative Political Action Conference survey — the huge gathering of conservative activists held earlier this year.

The would-be 2016 presidential candidate spoke of people across the country telling him that they are frightened – of losing freedom and constitutional rights, as well as bankrupting future generations.

“There is an urgency facing this country – there is an urgency in politics unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Cruz said, adding that the urgency is driving a new conservative 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 pointed to his battles with what he called “Washington elites,” both Democrat and Republican, over drones, gun rights and filibusters. However, he told of the “tsunami” of populist power and grassroots support that fueled his victories.

“Thank you!” he declared to 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.”

“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 former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who finished in ninth place in the straw poll, with 2%.

Santorum criticized the party’s “moderate” funders — a veiled swipe at moderates such as Bush — calling them “expert political class” from “dark-blue communities” in urban areas.

Former presidential candidate Herman Cain also spoke, hinting he may run once again for the White House.

The Obama administration is “a period of scandals and a crisis of leadership,” Cain told the crowd, warning them to “stay informed. The stupid people are out-voting us.”

Cain was not included in the straw poll.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.