Carson received 22 percent of the vote, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, last year’s straw poll winner, who took 13 percent of the vote.
Carson headlined the opening night of the weekend conference along with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. Carson was greeted with signs and chants of “Run Ben, Run” from a crowd of roughly 3,000.
Although questions of his presidential ambitions were left unanswered, Carson did offer Republicans some advice to heed in future elections.
“Some people are not going to like what I’m about to say, but, after the primaries are over, if your candidate didn’t win, don’t take your marbles and go home — we still need you to vote,” Carson said.
“They may not agree with you on everything, but it is much better to work with somebody who agrees with you 90 percent of the time than somebody who disagrees with you 100 percent of the time,” Carson said.
Despite his lack of experience in holding or running for public office, Carson has been targeted as a sleeper candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination by a committee of conservative activists.
The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee raised $3.3 million last quarter to try to pull the former physician into the presidential hunt, notably outpacing the “Ready for Hillary” PAC, which recorded $2.5 million for the quarter.
Jindal, who came in fourth place in the presidential straw poll, opened his speech with an endorsement of Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez.
“I’ll say this: Colorado needs a governor that understands you need to grow the private-sector economy, you need to cut government spending, you need to cut taxes, and unleash the power of energy,” Jindal said. “So remember Bob Beauprez when it’s time to vote later this year.”
The Western Conservative Summit, in its fifth year, boasted more than 3,300 attendees and attracted other popular conservative pundits and politicians including Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Florida Rep. Allen West.
During his speech, Scott came out in support of Rep. Cory Gardner, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in the Nov. 4 election.
“I’m looking forward to you sending the great Cory Gardner to join me in the United States Senate,” Scott said. “Cory’s a good man. We need some help in the U.S. Senate.”
“You can’t see Cory and not smile because he’s always smiling,” said Scott. “And one of the keys to success is making sure our candidates are likeable and armed with the right message.”
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who finished third in the straw poll with 12 percent of the vote, rallied supporters behind her call for the impeachment of the president.
“These days, you hear all of these politicians denouncing Barak Obama, saying he’s a lawless, imperial president, he ignores court orders and changes laws by fiat and refuses to enforce laws that he just doesn’t like,” Palin said.
“That’s true, but the question is, politicians, what are you going to do about it? We need a little less talk and a lot more action. There’s only one remedy for a president who commits high crimes and misdemeanors, and it’s impeachment,” Palin said.
The annual summit boosted its attendance for the fifth consecutive year, and was sponsored by the Centennial Institute and Colorado Christian University.