June 07--FORT WORTH -- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz won another straw poll Saturday, this one in his home state at the country's largest political gathering.
The tea party favorite placed first in a field of 14 potential candidates, pulling ahead of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and others in the 2016 Presidential Straw Poll at the Republican Party of Texas state convention.
As Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri announced that Texas' junior senator won the straw poll, delegates at the convention loudly chanted "Cruuuuuz."
It wasn't even close.
Cruz, the upstart who two years ago stunned many by challenging -- and beating -- Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the U.S. Senate seat Kay Bailey Hutchison was vacating, claimed a decisive victory with 43.4 percent of the vote.
Fox news contributor and neurosurgeon Ben Carson came in second, with 12.2 percent, followed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 12.1 percent and Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 11.7 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush rounded out the top five with 3.3 percent of the vote.
The votes were cast this week by thousands of delegates gathered for their state convention at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Texas Republicans have said they hope the poll thrusts Texas into the national limelight -- signaling to voters nationwide which candidate they believe should win the GOP presidential nomination.
Texas traditionally has little voice in the presidential race because, most times, the nominees for both parties are all but chosen by the time Texans vote.
But many hope that changes in 2016, when Texans head to the polls as one of the first big states to cast ballots in the presidential election.
The frontrunners in the poll all made appearances at the convention this week, drawing the largest reactions from delegates.
Delegates and alternates were among those voting, as well as any Texas Republican who paid the $50 facility fee to attend the convention as a guest.
A continuing trend
Saturday's straw poll results come after U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz won the most recent presidential straw poll, conducted at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans last month.
Cruz drew 30 percent of the vote at that poll, followed by Fox News commentator Ben Carson, with 29 percent; U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, with 10 percent; former Arkansas Gov. Mick Huckabee with 5 percent; and Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 4.9 percent.
Cruz also won the Values Voter summit's presidential straw poll last year; he came in second to Paul at the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Texas Republicans held their first-ever GOP presidential straw poll in Fort Worth in 2007, just months before voters began casting ballots in primaries nationwide.
A handful of candidates attended the event to make their pitch to Texans, but better named candidates -- ranging from John McCain of Arizona to Mitt Romney of Massachusetts -- didn't make it to the event that year.
In the end, Republican presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter, a California congressman known for being tough on illegal immigrants, was the top pick of Texans in the 2007 straw poll. Actor Fred Thompson and Ron Paul rounded out the top three.
Hunter ended up dropping out of the race in January 2008.
Delegates got to see three of the candidates on the ballot in person this week, as Perry, Cruz and Paul all came to talk to those gathered at the convention.
Cruz warned that American's freedoms are under assault and asked Texans to join the growing "grassroots army ... of men and women who say they will not go quietly into the night."
"We want our freedom back."
Paul, son of former U.S. Sen. and former presidential candidate Ron Paul, had a few suggested changes for congress members. He suggested putting in place term limits as well as rules preventing Congress from passing any law from which they are exempted.
He said he would cut congressional pay in half, but also only ask Congress to work half as much, and recommend that Republicans become the party that says, "why don't we read the bills before we pass them?"
"If we need to be a bigger, better, bolder party, we need to do it with optimism," he said.
And Perry, who will step down as governor in January after serving in the post since 2000, rallied the crowd, also speaking of what needs to be done in Washington, D.C.
"We need to set the stage for 2016, when we will win the White House and we will rebuild the American dream," Perry told the crowd. "We're too good a country to wander through the wilderness of economic darkness. We must seize our promise at home. We must establish our moral authority overseas.
"We must live up to our promise again."
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley
(c)2014 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Visit the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Ted Cruz wins Texas Republican presidential straw poll
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