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 Texas Republican Party’s convention.
As party Chairman Steve Munisteri announced that Texas’ junior senator had won the straw poll, delegates at the convention loudly chanted “Cruuuuuz.”
It wasn’t even close.
Cruz, who stunned many two years ago by challenging — and beating — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, 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 Paul with 12.1 percent and Perry with 11.7 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush rounded out the top five with 3.3 percent.
The votes were cast by thousands of delegates gathered at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Texas Republicans have said they hope the poll thrusts the state into the 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 will change in 2016, when Texans head to the polls as one of the first big states to cast ballots in the presidential election.
The front-runners in the poll all made appearances at the convention, 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
Cruz had also won the previous presidential straw poll, conducted at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans last month.
He drew 30 percent of the vote in that poll, followed by Carson with 29 percent, Paul with 10 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 5 percent and Perry with 4.9 percent.
Texas Republicans held their first-ever presidential straw poll in Fort Worth in 2007, just months before voters began casting ballots in primaries nationwide.
A few candidates attended the event to make their pitch to Texans, but many of the bigger names — ranging from John McCain of Arizona to Mitt Romney of Massachusetts — didn’t make it.
In the end, Republican presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter, a California congressman known for being tough on illegal immigration, was the top pick in 2007. Actor Fred Thompson and Texas congressman Ron Paul rounded out the top three.
Hunter dropped out of the race in January 2008.
Delegates got to see three of this year’s candidates in person as Perry, Cruz and Rand Paul spoke 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, the son of Ron Paul, suggested a few changes for members of Congress. He recommended adding term limits as well as rules preventing Congress from passing any law from which they are exempt.
He said he would halve congressional pay but would also ask Congress to work only half as much. He said Republicans should 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.
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.”