Huckabee easily wins Values Voter straw poll

Mike Huckabee was the clear winner of a straw poll of conservative activists Saturday on who should be the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

Taken at the Values Voter Summit, the poll had the former Arkansas governor winning with more than 28 percent of the vote, more than 16 points higher than his nearest rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Activists considered nine candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination in the poll.

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Huckabee’s showing won praise from the conference’s organizers.

“He is well-oiled. He came back with a strong message and I don’t think he missed a beat from the presidential campaign last year,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative Christian advocacy group that is sponsoring the summit.

Romney was at the top of a tight pack for the runner-up spot in the straw poll. Following him was Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, then former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and then Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). All hovered around above or below 12 percentage points of the vote.

Those earning under double digits percent-wise of the activists’ vote were Newt Gingrich, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Despite an astonishing grassroots campaign for the White House last year, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) came in last among the candidates with little more than two percent of the vote, according to the poll’s results.

Abortion was key for the activists in their voting, with more than 40 percent saying it was the most important issue in determining their choice of candidate to support. Protection of religious liberty was next with more than 18 percent of the vote; gay marriage was third with more than seven percent of the vote.

Nearly 600 people voted in the poll at the summit.

FRC also announced that they planned to weigh in on the 2010 mid-term elections. The group has targeted 16 Democratic lawmakers in the House and the Senate, including Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) and Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.). They expect to spend roughly a million dollars across all the congressional races on ads as well as get-out-the-vote efforts before next year’s election.

More than 1,800 attended the weekend conference, a surprising turnout according to organizers. Have already switched to a smaller venue from last year’s summit, they had expected a smaller crowd of roughly 1,000 due to it being an off-election year.
Perkins said he was happy with this year’s summit and said “angst” about the Obama administration has fueled attendance. But he said that passion is being used constructively with people wanting to get involved in the political process.

“I think what you are seeing here is that people are ready to go to work to effect change. Real change,” Perkins said.