Carson captures southern Republican straw poll

Washington (CNN)Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson handily won the Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll on Saturday, the first major survey to take the temperature of the Republican presidential field in the south.

Carson, a staunch opponent of Obamacare who is popular among social conservatives, captured 25.4% of the vote in a pool that counted nearly 20 candidates, including announced and prospective hopefuls for the party's 2016 nomination. Runners-up Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also received large shares of the vote, finishing with 20.5% and 16.6%, respectively.
The SRLC said in a press release that the survey is one of the first straw polls of the 2016 cycle "and is an indicator of southern primary voter support."
"This was an energetic and inspiring conference," conference chair Steve Fair said in the release. "If the level of interest in this straw poll is any indicator, a Republican candidate will be well positioned to retake the White House in 2016."
    The conference, which was held in Oklahoma City, began on Thursday and ended Saturday. The event hosted 13 "possible" presidential contenders, the release said, as well as several governors, congressional leaders and other prominent Republicans.
    A total of 958 voted in the straw poll, a total of 64% of the conference's registered attendees, the release said. Voting was conducted both on-site and online only by registered attendees who physically attended the conference.