Carson wins early GOP straw poll
© Getty Images

Retired neurosurgeon Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonBen Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist Senior Trump administration official to leave post next week Harris, Ocasio-Cortez pitch bill to increase housing assistance for individuals with criminal record MORE won the presidential straw poll at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City on Saturday, beating out Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz: 'Fox News went all in for Trump' 2 Republican senators introduce resolution to label antifa as domestic terrorists Ted Cruz: Trump's chances of winning reelection are '50-50' MORE (R-Texas).

Carson won 25.4 percent of the vote, while Walker took 20.5 percent and Cruz received 16.4 percent.

ADVERTISEMENT

Other GOP presidential hopefuls and potential candidates finished far behind the top trio. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finished a distant fourth with 5.3 percent of the vote, former Texas Gov. Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryAmazon taps Trump ally to lobby amid Pentagon cloud-computing contract fight How to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy Senior Trump administration official to leave post next week MORE took 5 percent, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush won 4.9 percent.

Winning the straw poll could provide a boost to Carson’s long-shot candidacy.

“The fact of the matter is that I believe our founders set up a system that wasn’t supposed to cater to a political class,” Carson said at the conference. “It was supposed to cater to the people.”

“We’ve got to stop making everything into a political issue,” he added. “Our unity is through our strength.”

Carson is looking to solidify a position in televised debates, with Fox News and CNN announcing they will limit the stage to 10 top candidates in national polls.

Carson has finished in the top 10 of several recent polls, but he recently decried the debate rules for excluding candidates.

“I am very worried that out of broadcasting convenience our party is about to exclude voices from our debate programs that are critical to making our party bigger, better, and bolder,” he wrote in a letter released Friday. “The rules may be good for me personally, but they are not good for the process.”

While straw polls can provide a snapshot of the candidates' standing among grassroots activists, they are generally poor predictors of success on the campaign trail.

Ron Paul won the Leadership Conference straw poll in 2011, but finished fourth in the GOP presidential primary.

Eleven presidential contenders were scheduled to attend this year's conference, but Cruz and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioAna Navarro lashes out at Rubio for calling outrage over Trump's 'go back' tweet 'self righteous' US-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite MORE (Fla.) were unable to attend in person due to late votes in the Senate Friday.

The two senators recorded video addresses to the conference instead. Cruz won last year’s straw poll, narrowly defeating Carson.

The poll results were first reported by The National Journal.