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Ted Cruz Wins Straw Poll At Conservative Confab

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday.
Carolyn Kaster
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the winner of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference's presidential straw poll.

Cruz won 40 percent of the votes from the conservative gathering's 2,659 attendees who voted. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took second place with 30 percent. GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who controversially canceled his appearance planned for Saturday morning, finished third with just 15 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was fourth with 8 percent.

It's a boost for Cruz's argument that he's the leading conservative in the race, and comes on a day where he's hoping to pull out several wins in GOP caucuses. He was declared the winner of the Kansas GOP caucuses, which are seeing record turnout. Still to come are results in the Maine and Kentucky caucuses as well as the Louisiana primary.

Cruz gave a rousing speech to the annual gathering on Friday, attacking Trump for skipping CPAC and painting him as an inauthentic conservative.

"I think somebody told him Megyn Kelly would be here, or even worse he was told conservatives were going to be here," he joked, referencing Trump's feud with the popular Fox News anchor.

Cruz has worked to solidify support among the type of voters the popular conference attracts — younger, more libertarian-leaning voters. That's one reason that either Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul or his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, have won the straw poll five of the last six years.

Here's the past CPAC straw poll winners:

1976: Ronald Reagan
1980: Ronald Reagan
1984: Ronald Reagan
1986: Jack Kemp
1987: Jack Kemp
1993: Jack Kemp
1995: Phil Gramm
1998: Steve Forbes
1999: Gary Bauer
2000: George W. Bush
2005: Rudy Giuliani
2006: George Allen
2007: Mitt Romney
2008: Mitt Romney
2009: Mitt Romney
2010: Ron Paul
2011: Ron Paul
2012: Mitt Romney
2013: Rand Paul
2014: Rand Paul

2015: Rand Paul

Domenico Montanaro contributed.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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