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Cruz wins Values Voter Summit's 2016 straw poll

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FILE: Oct. 11, 2013: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pauses while speaking at the Values Voter Summit,in Washington, D.C. (AP)

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz decidedly won the presidential straw poll at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, solidifying his status among religious conservatives.

Cruz, a first-term senator and Tea Party favorite, has emerged as one of the Republican Party and conservative movement’s most dynamic leaders –  highlighted by his effort to defund ObamaCare.

Cruz, who appears to have presidential aspirations, took 42 percent of the vote, with Dr. Ben Carson and former Pennsylvania Sen. and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum each getting 13 percent.

Though the 2016 race is years off, the annual summit in Washington is considered an early indication of how conservative voters are leaning.

“I just spoke with Senator Cruz and he wanted me to convey to you his deep appreciation for your enthusiastic and … that he was very grateful to know that there are Americans across the country who are standing with him as he stands for your values here in Washington, D.C.,” said Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council,  which is hosting the three-day event, according to The Washington Times.

Among the other Capitol Hill conservatives to speak at the event were GOP Sens. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida, also thought to have 2016 White House aspirations.

Paul finished in fourth place in the straw poll with 6 percent of the vote and Mr. Rubio finished fifth with 5 percent.

Cruz, whose speech was interrupted several times by immigration reform advocates, said Friday the health care law and Obama's spending priorities had put the nation on the wrong track. "We have a couple of years to turn this country around, or we go off the cliff into oblivion," he said.

Still, gay marriage and abortion got plenty of attention. Carson, a Maryland physician popular with conservatives, rejected the notion of a "war on women," raised by Democrats, saying, "The war is on their babies." He said marriage was a "sacred institution" that did not need a new definition.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.