WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the Values Voter Summit's 2012 presidential straw poll Saturday, grabbing nearly 29 percent of the vote in a crowded field.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence each won roughly 12 percent of the 597 votes cast.
Four of the top five candidates addressed religious conservatives at the three-day Values Voter conference in Washington this week - the kind of attendance seen as a significant gesture by activists here, especially in an off-election year. Palin did not make an appearance.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which hosted the conference, said Saturday that Huckabee had "potential," but stressed that the former governor's strong showing wouldn't translate into automatic support from the FRC's political action committee. "We want a fully-rounded conservative candidate," he said. "Right now, the door's wide open."
Mitt Romney's remarks here this week touched on social issues, but focused on economic and security policy. By contrast, Huckabee's speech dismissed calls for social and religious conservatives to move toward the center. "I'm not sure the center makes a whole lot of sense when it's coming from people who certainly don't have our interest, or our country's interest, at heart," he said.
The former Baptist minister nabbed a surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses last year, largely on the strength of grassroots support from religious conservative voters.
In his summit speech earlier Saturday, Romney stressed his unbroken string of conference appearances. Romney - a Mormon who has long made an effort to connect with evangelical voters - had nabbed victories in several similar recent measures of conservative presidential preference, including the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll earlier this year, and the last Values Voter Summit contest, held in 2007. He narrowly defeated Huckabee that year in a vote that was open to voters who cast their ballots over the Web. This year's vote was limited to conference attendees.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum were the other candidates on the straw poll ballot. All grabbed single-digit shares of the vote.
The FRC said Saturday that they believed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of their 16 top congressional targets for 2010, was looking increasingly vulnerable. Other names on the list are Tom Perriello, Steve Driehaus, Glenn Nye, Betsy Markey, Walt Minnick, Parker Griffith, Alice Titus, Mary-Jo Kilroy, Ann Kirkpatrick, John Boccieri, and John Murtha in House races, and Robin Carnahan, Michael Bennet, Paul Hodes, Christopher Dodd and Harry Reid on the Senate side, all Democrats.
Follow Rebecca Sinderbrand on Twitter: @sinderbrandrcnn
It's all about the lesser of all of the evils. Republicans need to re-invent themselves to be credible at all.
Wow, the GOP slides even deeper into anarchy. Huckabee can't win a national election, especially not against Obama. And he doesn't pull the party together. In fact, he is just the type of leader that will sheer off the moderates even as he energizes the far right base.
Values voters indeed. That's how the GOP lost in 2006 and 2008. Hope you all like the woods.
Keep in mind that those of us who apparently lack values ... out number those claiming to have them by a vast majority ... so, eat your hearts out GOP hypocrites! Now, just what are Sarah Palin's values ... beyond spewing hate? Those claiming to want "their" Amerika back ... would love to see us revert to those good ole days before civil rights ... they're just not honest enough to admit it!
Huck is definitely the least repulsive out of all those current candidates, but seriously, the GOP needs a new face. I can't imagine one of these people actually making a serious bid for the White House, maybe in 2000, but not in 2012...the world and America has changed...Americans are by and large looking for intelligence and competence in their leaders. The days of the "awe shucks" red neck politicians are over. Thank God!
He must be another Sucker??
birthers, deathers, antiabortionist, nazis, neo nazies, southern christians, racists, folks that want to take the USA back 200 hundred years, calhounist, and just plain old right wing haters all aboard for the tea party express, last stop Values Voters Conference.
So what? Huckabee, Romney, Palin and Pawlenty aren't even good enough to be called 21st century Adelaide Stevensons. They can win and lose straw polls until 2012 and none of them will even make the Republican ticket.
Dear GOP: Run Huckabee in 2012. Please. I want eight full years of Obama.
Lousy field of candidates, but Palin's name should be last.
The bible thumpers voted for the preacher, now there's a shock!
Oh please, I'll laugh so hard if it's Huckabee vs Obama in 2012. What a discouraging time it must be for the few remaining old-school, common-sense Republicans like my elderly parents.
anybody but Palin... please
Wow, a whopping 29%!
These "Values Voters" are the same far right that will help the GOP lose the 2012 election. THey value themselves and their own ideology, and that's about all they value.
Cute. "Values Voters". What are their values? Unjust war, racism, men cruising for men in bathrooms, cheating on your wife and leaving your state high and dry, just plain cheating then crying crocodile tears? Yeah. love those values.
So old F$ckamee won a poll, big deal.
This is one of the worst human beings in politics!! He's annoying, a liar, a pure evil!!
Who is this guy???
Couild we see someone new please? This is same old same old. No one on the scene now is cut out for 2012. And please, not another conservative. Too way out on religion, war, morality (yes, morality includes more than sex), Too way out on dishonesty, greed, finger pointing, and stuffy speeches. How about Mayor Bloomberg? He appears to be a normal, intelligent, thoughtful, honest, personable, successful leader. Why are you stil pushing inadequate, perhaps not too intelligent extremists as Huckabee and Palin? This party is never going to rise again unless you put aside all the 08 losers and get the people back.
The GOP should take a deep breath and remember Obama has only been in office a short while. Too soon for wishful thinking for the GOP folks.
i will love to watch Palin-Obama debate, if Palin does not quit before elections.
Kick Obama to the curb, and put him in now!
Ok, honestly, is that the very best we can expect?
Anyone approved by the religious zealot faction of the Nutsi Party should not attain any position of power. In fact, all the candidates in the straw poll are the cream of the whack-faction crop.
I wonder when the conservatives will recover from this disaster and start coming up with ideas and vision and decency and sanity?
I wonder why some party like the Libertarians do not make a big move to become the new face of conservatism, for there are a lot of people who just cannot stand what has happened to their party. Huge opportunity being lost here for a third party to become the second party and to bury the carnival freak show that the Republicans have become.
Thats right Huckabee...don't move towards the center. That way you can make an even bigger joke of the Republican party than it has already become. Like a bad sitcom.