Updated 5:01 p.m. | For the third year in a row, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has won the Values Voter Summit Straw poll.
Cruz won 35 percent of the vote, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 18 percent in the survey of 1,161 voters at this annual meeting hosted by Family Research Council Action. “It’s a very crowded field. This is a process of people having to make difficult choices,” said Tony Perkins, the group’s president. “People are looking at who can win, who can raise the money and who is putting together the ground games.”
Rick Tyler, a spokesman for the Cruz campaign, said he believes this year was the most important year for Cruz to win, as he makes his play to win the support of evangelical primary voters in states such as Iowa, South Carolina, and the southern states that make up the so-called “SEC Primary.”
“We worked very hard to win this year,” he said. “Winning the Values Voter Summit is a key indication of your organizational strength among evangelicals. We nearly doubled the support of the person who came in second. We had a great presence there.”
In a statement, Cruz said he was "humbled and honored" to have the group's support, but added, "in order for our values to truly be represented in the White House, it's going to take millions of Christians encouraging each other to get involved and, most importantly, to vote." Cruz and Carson were among the crop of Republican presidential contenders who appeared at the two-day meeting, where Perkins said 2,700 social conservatives were registered to attend. The speakers included former Sen. Rick Santorum, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and businessman Donald Trump. Trump, who brought a Bible with him on stage in front of this group of social conservatives, was booed during his remarks after he called Rubio a "clown." He ranked fifth in the straw poll, with just 5 percent of the vote.
“This is the first time Donald Trump has been to the Values Voter Summit. He is new to the attendees at the Values Voter Summit. I have to give him credit for coming here," he said. “I think a fifth place showing for Donald Trump here is pretty good.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush got only seven votes — just two more than Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders received.
“It would help him if he actually showed up and talked to values voters. He’s been challenged from the very beginning with conservatives, and it certainly did not help him by not coming to the Value Voters Summit," Perkins said.