Donald Trump took his Republican presidential campaign to Tennessee Saturday, winning the Nashville Straw Poll at the annual convention of the tea party-backed National Federation of Republican Assemblies.
Trump won 52 percent of the 420 votes cast. All 17 candidates were on the ballot.
Here were the top vote-getters:
- Trump: 220 votes.
- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz: 100 votes.
- Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson: 46 votes.
Two other candidates were far behind, but in double digits: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, with 15 votes, and former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina, with 11 votes.
All other candidates were in single digits, with five receiving no votes at all from the tea party members.
In his morning speech, the billionaire businessman praised the tea party's efforts to hold the federal government accountable and discussed how the group has been discredited by the Republican establishment.
"You have not been treated fairly," Trump said. "People talk about the tea party, and you talk about being marginalized?
"At least I have a microphone, where I can fight back. You people don't.
"The tea party people are incredible people," Trump added. "These are people who work hard and love the country and they get beat up all the time by the media."
He also slammed candidate Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, in discussing foreign policy.
"I said don’t go into Iraq, even though I’m a very militaristic person," Trump told the crowd, according to Politico. "I’m much more militaristic than Bush, even the brother."
He added that he deserved credit for predicting the war's disastrous outcome.
"Normally I wouldn’t say this, but I need your frickin’ votes, you understand that?" Trump said.
The developer also called for law and order, Politico reports,
blasting the rioting in Baltimore in April after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
"The police were not allowed to protect people," Trump said. "We have to be tough. We have to be smart … I know cities where police are afraid to even talk to people."
He added that "99.9 percent" of what police do is good, Politico reports.
"The problem is the good work doesn’t get shown on television."
Trump's message resonated well with attendees, NFRA President Sharron Angle told CNN.
"He seems to fire everyone up," she said. "He seems to be striking a chord with voters.
"There's anger, as evidenced by the response to the NSA scandal, the IRS scandal, the Benghazi scandal," Angle said. "They are also very cynical because they feel that they've been lied to over and over and over again."
Angle was backed by the tea party in her high-profile bid in 2010 to defeat then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Other speakers at the three-day convention, which ended Saturday, were Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, whom the group selected as its next speaker of the House of Representatives, and Pastor Rafael Cruz, the father of another GOP candidate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
However, immigration supporters protested Trump's appearance outside the Rocketown entertainment complex in downtown Nashville, The Tennessean reports.
Several hundred people were expected to attend the event, sponsored by the local advocacy groups the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and Workers' Dignity.
Trump kicked off his campaign in June with a pledge to build a wall at the U.S. border with Mexico to keep illegals out.
After his remarks, Trump told reporters that he would make a decision "very soon" on whether to make a third-party run if he did not win the nomination. He said the decision would make a lot of people "very happy."
Trump has so far refused to pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee. He has said that it gives him leverage.
But his hands are largely tied: He would have to sign a pledge to do so if he wants to appear on the ballot in South Carolina and potentially several other states.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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