U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz easily won the presidential preference straw poll held at the Texas GOP’s state convention Saturday, crushing outgoing Gov. Rick Perry and several other early contenders for the 2016 nomination.
Cruz took 43.4 percent of the vote, according to results announced at the close of the convention. Ben Carson, a columnist and neurosurgeon from Michigan, came in second with 12.2 percent, edging Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who came in third place with 12.1 percent. In something of a surprise, Perry, who made a failed presidential attempt in 2012, came in fourth place with 11.7 percent.
Attendees cast ballots on secure iPads over the course of the convention at a pair of kiosks on the convention center grounds.
With the 2016 presidential field far from being defined, voters faced a ballot with 14 names. Some names, like Perry and Cruz, were very familiar. Others, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Iowa Congressman Steve King, maybe weren’t as familiar.
So early in the game, the excitement for the poll concerned how well Cruz and Perry would do. The sense was that Cruz, who was a high-profile presence at the convention on Friday, would win easily. He followed up an enthusiastically received speech in the morning with an extended stay in the exhibit hall, where he held court at an eye-grabbing booth in the center of the floor. He was joined by his father, Rafael Cruz, who is a Tea Party favorite in his own right.
Perry, meanwhile, kept his footprint at the convention small. After giving his speech on Thursday, which was also well received, he left for Austin, where he got back in time to tweet a photo of himself from the X Games competition. Perry’s speech was widely viewed as a table-setter for a second run for the White House.
Paul spoke at the convention on Friday afternoon and projected a more casual air, roaming the stage sans jacket. He mixed barbed humor — including a joke that President Barack Obama should have traded five Democrats instead of five Taliban for captured soldier Bowe Bergdahl — along with a slightly muted version of the libertarian stances of his father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.
The poll results on Saturday punctuated an eventful two years for Cruz. He came to the state convention in 2012 locked in a runoff contest with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the Senate seat being vacated by then-U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Cruz had lost the first round of voting. But the convention confirmed that he had captured the momentum that would drive him to victory in July of that year.
The other rumored 2016 contenders on the straw poll, such as Chris Christie or Jeb Bush, didn’t have a presence at the convention.
Bush was in fifth place with 3.3 percent, well behind the first group of candidates. He was followed by Scott Walker (2.9 percent), Marco Rubio (2.6 percent), Paul Ryan (2 percent), Rick Santorum (1.9 percent), Bobby Jindal (1.7 percent) and Christie (1.3 percent).
The remaining three — Mike Pence, Kasich and King — all received less than 1 percent of the vote.