Ed Kilgore has been writing lately about the Mitt boomlet and the possibility that the GOP could see yet another clown car field of presidential candidates in 2016. Republican leaders obviously hope otherwise.

But they’re still married to their wackiest base groups, including most prominently the so-called religious right. And that group just made their feelings known:

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz won the Value Voters Summit presidential straw poll on Saturday. The crowd burst onto applause on Saturday, as Family Research Council President Tony Perkins announced that Cruz won 25 percent of votes at the annual Washington conference.

The victory is a big victory to the Republican firebrand and Tea Party icon, coming just a day after he drew standing ovations with a religious and emotional speech that blasted ObamaCare, congressional Democrats and called for Republicans to take over the White House in 2016.
Cruz also won the straw poll in 2013. Coming in second was neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a political novice who has a large following in conservative circles but said earlier this week that there is a “strong” likelihood that he would run for president. He won 20 percent of the votes. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) came in third, with 12 percent of the vote.

Cruz, Carson and Huckabee. Oh my. A lineup like that wouldn’t just lose to Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden. It would lose to almost anyone credible on the Democratic side in 2016.

That doesn’t mean the candidates of the religious right will win the GOP primary. But even if they don’t, they’ll certainly drag the eventual nominee off the cliff during the primary in such a way that they may not be able to make it back to anything approaching center during the general.

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Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.