Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz won the Values Voter Summit straw poll for the third year in a row on Saturday, a strong showing of support from evangelical voters for his 2016 presidential bid.
The firebrand Texas senator won a whopping 35 percent in the poll of summit-goers, ahead of runner-up Ben Carson’s 18 percent. That margin is significantly wider than last year, where he edged out Carson by just 5 percentage points.
Eight GOP presidential candidates took to the summit stage in order to make their case to the religious conservative audience—Cruz, Carson, Trump, Rubio, Huckabee, as well as Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Rand Paul (Ky.), and Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.).
The results confirm Cruz, Carson and Huckabee’s strength among religious conservative voters. Each rely on the voting bloc as a core piece of their electorate, but the huge win for Cruz is likely encouraging considering recent polls showing the senator outside of the top tier with evangelicals.
But the figures are surprising for both Rubio and Trump. Rubio’s finish shows him continuing to make gains with religious conservative voters as he rises in national polling. But the result is a disappointment for Trump, who had led with evangelicals in two recent polls.
Ben Carson received warm support, but many still are not familiar with the retired neurosurgeon say it’s yet to be seen whether he will be as strong on social issues as Cruz or Huckabee.
While recent polls have shown Donald Trump leading with evangelical voters as well as across the board, he placed well outside of the top-tier. Trump gave an extremely well-attended speech on Friday, but some conference-goers mocked him for seeking to appeal to the Christian base by bringing the Bible that he said his mother gave him as a child.