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
The GOP is already going over it's list of losers.
Nothing like an early start, eh boys?
Good that means the republicans will never win!!! Huckabee is to socialy conservative to win over Independents!
To think Huck is a preacher – he who has forsaken his Christian values of loving and forgiving thy neighbor to follow the values of the Neocon's of hating and deceiving thy neighbor! I hope he is proud of himself – because the man upstairs is not!
Republican's = Incompetence!
Why is Huckabee a surprise. He is an ultra right wing social conservative pastor (who doesn't thing everyone should be covered by basic health coverage...I'm glad Jesus wasn't like that)
12% per cent Romney? Are you kidding and your think you are coming in second...... Yoke, Yoke.
Doesn't pay to beat up on women and kids, one day the Romney family will realize that. Don't you think it is time to call your cronies off. - vicious trying to leave people homeless, what type of religious people are you anyway?! Don't answer already know, the kind that cover up.
Hopefully, next election some judges will be off the bench too, which have been aiding and abetting.
The party of No is crossing Palin's bridge to No-where.
Please, if these guys are what the GOP has, the Fat Lady is singing.
What surprise, Talibangelicals like Huckabee.
These people would love to see a theocracy like Iran here. The only difference, in their narrow minds, god is on their side.
Sure, the Born Agains give Huckabee the lead in a 5-way race. Good thing that the American Taliban won't get over 50% in a general election. They blessed us with Dubya. Once was enough to prove why separation of Church and State is a good idea.
Pawlenty nor Huckabee nor Romney will ever get my vote.
The conservatives can give it up right now. They can give-up their attempts to win the office of President, namely because they're against killing babies (abortion) but they are 100% behind the NRA. As a result of the NRA's successful idiocy, we have now grown accustomed to not a day passing by without several gun shootings and killings for all kinds of motives.
They can forget the White House, because there are millions of Americans without Health Insurance but they don't want to force the hands of the Insurance companies to bring the cost down. Why? The reason is clear; they are for big enterprise over the average citizen. They say "they want" Health Insurance for everyone but, oppose the Public Option which would make it affordable and would create competition for their protégés, Big Insurance.
They say "we shouldn't incur more deficit spending" but when their previous idiot hit the White House, he wiped out a $2 Trillion Dollar Surplus that was created by the Democrats from 1992 to 2000. When the same idiot went to war "to finish the job that his Dad had not of Regime Change in Iraq", under the twisted lie of Weapons of Mass Destruction, he created a huge deficit, and they didn't say a word.
We are the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't have Universal Health Coverage for all of its citizens. People of other nations used to look at us as a place where they would want to live, but that's no longer true.
For that and their family value hypocrites, No GOP for Me.
597 votes cast? Straw polling what, 8 months into Obama's term? What the heck, CNN? Does the horse race ever end with you?
Not to mention, Huckabee doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of ever becoming president, or does anyone that conservative. Hint: throughout its history, America has become progressively LESS conservative, not MORESO. In fact, this is true about human history as a whole. Eventually, people disprove or run out of stupid reasons to treat each other poorly.
Values??? Conservative values that is a JOKE!!
Look at their values. Greed, denying health care to their countrymen, racism, fear, homophobia, adultery . . . .
There is NO such thing as conservative values they hate everyone who is not white, greedy and straight (in public).
Why is this shocking? The religious arm of the Repub party are all about Huck. Too bad the the normal, moderate conservatives are all behind Romney.
Ol' Huck's a nice guy, but he can't beat Obama. For that, the Republicans will need more – Romney, or even Gingrich. 2010 and 2012 can be big years for the Republicans, but they'll have to choose their candidates smartly.
Go Huckabee 2012!!!!!!!
173 votes out of 597 shows they are not unified. But if the nominee is one who Tony Perkins enthusiastically supports, the candidate is doomed.
Big deal...theyare just a bunch of right wing wack o doodles....who would you expect them to choose?
well, I'm jumping ahead, but Clinton was from here, and if a few more make it, then ...
During the election was mislead in believing he was what he showed to be... but once he took that fox news program realized he was just better at politics not ethics..
For most Democrats this is too good to be true. Bring him on.
All I can say is enjoy while it lasts Mr. Huckabee because if the one person who can really unite the GOP decides to enter the race in 2012 then Obama will have a tough Re-election. I'm talking about Joe Scarborough. There's talk of him running for Senate for the state of Florida unless he's change his mind but either way if that man enters the presidential race then it will become very interesting and I would love to see Rush, Sean and the rest of the Neo-Con's try to tear him down...He wouldn't let get to him. He swings back and he swings back Hard...
I'll make a note to NOT vote for whoever the FRC supports in the 2012 election.
I don't really get why he's labeled a surprise winner on the main page.
I think most people expected he would win or at least come in close at the top.
It would have been a surprise if someone who hasn't been in politics lately, like Santorum, or someone who isn't that popular, like Ron Paul won.
Since when did the 2012 campaign start in 2009. Can't we the people get a little break from politics.