Ted Cruz Emerges as Favorite for 2016 Election in Value Voters Straw Polls
Seeking a new generation of leaders, social conservatives are looking for a lot more than opposition to gay marriage and abortion.
An annual summit of faith leaders and conservative activists gave a platform to a new wave of Republican leaders, who derided President Barack Obama’s health care law, his steering of the economy and foreign policy along with a more traditional litany of social issues.
In what amounted to an audition, Senate Republicans like Ted Cruz of Texas described a nation teetering on "the edge of a cliff" while Rand Paul of Kentucky said U.S. foreign policy needed to stop a "war on Christianity." Mike Lee of Utah said the nation’s economic problems represented "moral threats" to the stability of families.
"We can’t stop talking about the importance of our values and our culture," said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who joined a parade of prominent GOP leaders at the Values Voter Summit on Friday. "We can’t stop talking about them because the moral well-being of our people is directly linked to their economic well-being."
Organizers said Saturday that Cruz won the event’s straw poll of possible 2016 presidential candidates with 42 percent, followed by Dr. Ben Carson and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 13 percent. Paul and Rubio placed fourth and fifth, respectively, offering an informal popularity contest among the roughly 2,000 attendees.
Social conservatives gathered at the summit as congressional Republicans sought agreement with Obama on a way to end the government shutdown, now in its 12th day, and avoid an economic default. Few in the audience expressed interest in backing down from efforts to defund or delay the nation’s health care law, a primary driver of the impasse, and said they wanted congressional Republicans to bring down the nation’s debt.
Marlene Kellett of Columbia, Md., said Republicans needed to hold firm in their opposition to the so-called Obamacare law. But she expressed pessimism that Republicans would make progress.
"I’m very opposed to Obamacare - it’s a disaster," Kellett said. "But I’m not feeling very positive about (the impasse). So often the Republicans cave, and they can’t seem to get what they want."
Adrienne Grizzell of Lexington, Ky., said the accumulation of nearly $17 trillion in debt - the source of a debate over whether to raise the nation’s borrowing limit - is too often shrugged off. "It’s as if, ’No, it’s not a problem, let’s keep spending,’" she said. "Nobody is saying, ’OK, we’ve going to start spending less.’"