Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., snared the top spot in a libertarian straw poll Saturday night.
The Republican Liberty Caucus announced the results of its straw poll as part of its national convention in Nashua, N.H.
Paul, who is 10th in the Washington Examiner's presidential power rankings, was the preferred candidate of 57.1 percent of attendees, while Cruz landed in second place with 51.2 percent.
"The large turnout for this event and the enthusiastic participation of attendees in this poll shows the rising tide of Liberty in the Republican Party," said Matt Nye, national chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. "Liberty Republicans have clearly identified these two candidates as the best in a crowded field. They are an inspiration to Republicans around the country and we look forward to a great crop of candidates at every level, ready to go to Washington and restore limited government and a respect for individual liberty."
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was a distant third at 17.9 percent.
Nearly 800 libertarian activists attended the event and voted in the straw poll.
"New Hampshire is the jumping off point for the nomination campaign and with this choice the people have clearly chosen liberty," said Aaron Day, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire. "We look forward to seeing a lot more of both Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in the next few months and I'm confident that our state candidates will do well with one of them at the top of the ticket."
Former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012, won the previous Republican Liberty Caucus straw poll, and went on to win second place in the 2012 New Hampshire primary behind Mitt Romney.
The straw poll this year featured an "alternative voting method" called "approval voting," in which convention attendees were asked to approve of one or more candidates.
Andrew Jennings, board chair of the Center for Election Science, a nonprofit group which conducted the poll, praised its unconventional style because it would "prevent spoilers and let all candidates see their true level of support" by preventing the vote from being split in a crowded Republican field.
Both Paul and Cruz made speaking appearances at the event.
"I think maybe that's what joins us all together — we may not agree on everything but we kind of want a government that minds its own business," Paul said, which resulted in a round of applause. "I want a government that basically leaves me alone."
The convention also featured speeches by two other Republican candidates: former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and former IRS commissioner Mark Everson. The candidates earned 0.4 and 0.3 percent of the straw poll respectively.