Ben Carson wins straw poll at regional GOP conference in Oklahoma City

Dr. Ben Carson won the presidential preference poll conducted at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas finished second and third, respectively, in the regional GOP conference.

Dr. Carson garnered 25.4 percent support to win the straw poll. The physician, who rose to national prominence for his advocacy of the right-to-life for unborn children, delivered a passionate and well-received speech at Friday night’s “energizing America” gala, a benefit to the Oklahoma Republican party.

Walker had 20.5 percent, while Cruz came in with 16.6 percent.

Oklahoman’s dominated the straw poll conducted over the last three days in their capital city. In all, 74.3 percent of the straw poll participants were from the Sooner State.

Gov. Walker actually had a narrow advantage over Dr. Carson among Oklahomans, getting 23.3 percent of the in-stater’s compared to Carson’s 21.6 percent backing. Walker spoke on Friday, receiving long and sustained applause.

Attendees at the event also came from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia and other states.

Far behind the three frontrunners in the straw poll were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (fourth, with 5.3 percent), former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (fifth, with five percent), former Florida Jeb Bush (sixth, 4.9 percent), U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky (seventh, 4.1 percent), U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida (eighth, also at 4.1 percent), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (ninth, yet again at 4.1 percent) and businesswoman Cary Fiorina of California (tenth, 2.7 percent).

In a statistical deadheat with Fiorina, finishing eleventh, was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (2.7 percent). He was followed, in twelfth place, by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Santorum won the 2012 Oklahoma GOP presidential preference primary, but snagged only 1.9 percent of the straw poll participants.

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump was in thirteen place (1.2 percent).

Former Internal Revnue Service Commission Mark Everson was in fourteenth (0.8 percent) and U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham was in last, with 0.5 percent. Garnering nearly unmeasurable backing were Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.

Cruz, Rubio, Huckabee, Trump, Graham and Kasich did not appear at the gathering. Cruz was loudly cheered for his lengthy video-taped comments at the Friday banquet, for which he was the original scheduled speaker.

When he and other senators had to stay in the nation’s capital for longer-than-expected work before the Memorial Day weekend, Carson became the keynote speaker. He referred to Sen. Cruz as “a good friend.”

Cruz was represented by his father, Rafael Cruz, who also energized the conservative crowd.

Straw poll participants were asked to choose which issue was most significant to them. The choices were: “Economic issues like taxes, government spending and job creation,” “Social issues like abortion, gun rights, school prayer and same-sex marriage,” and “National Security issues like Iran, ISI, Israel and Russia.”

Nearly half (46 percent) said national security was their greatest concern; 39.6 percent said economic issues were tops; 14.4 percent were their leading cause.

Carson and Walker drew well across all the three categories, although one-fourth of all of Carson’s backers said social issues were their top issue.

Bill Shapard of conducted the survey. He said two-thirds of those registered for the conference, and therefore eligible to vote, participated.