(CNN) – With 24 percent of the vote, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence was the winner Saturday of the fifth annual Values Voter straw poll, an early test of where a string of potential 2012 presidential candidates stand among socially conservative voters.
Runner-up was former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (22 percent), the winner of the same poll last year. In third place was former Massachusetts governor and White House hopeful Mitt Romney (13 percent), while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich placed fourth (10 percent).
Sarah Palin, who did not attend this year’s convention, placed fifth (7 percent).
“What is fascinating about these results is that it reflects what has been happening in primaries across the country,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who announced the results.
The vote came after a two-day conference in Washington, during which a veritable "who's who" of rising Republican stars and possible White House contenders made appearances.
(CNN) – Newly-minted Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell – who already has had to contend with a string of controversial statements she has made in the past – once said she “dabbled into witchcraft.”
The latest eyebrow-raising comment was revealed Friday by liberal comedian and talk show host Bill Maher, who, as host of the now-canceled show “Politically Incorrect,” had O’Donnell on his program several times as a guest.
“I dabbled into witchcraft - I never joined a coven. But I did, I did. ... I dabbled into witchcraft,” O’Donnell said during a 1999 appearance on the show, which ran on ABC. “I hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do.”
She then described one of her first dates – with a witch “on a satanic altar.”
Washington (CNN) – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich repeatedly brought social conservatives to their feet Saturday with an impassioned address in which he warned that America faces a dual threat from the Democratic establishment on the one hand and Islamic terrorists on the other.
“We are at a point where our establishment is sliding into policies of such disastrous impact that they will in fact fundamentally challenge the survival of America as we know it,” said Gingrich during his speech to the fifth annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC.
“On the one front we have a secular socialist machine led by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, and on the other front we have radical Islamists who would fundamentally change this country into a system none of us in this room would recognize,” he continued to thunderous applause.
Gingrich, who has repeatedly acknowledged he is testing the waters in advance of a potential bid for president, largely stuck to red meat issues during his 30-minute speech before a gathering of activists who could play a crucial role in selecting the next Republican presidential candidate.
Gingrich also took aim at Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who recently sent a letter to insurance industry leaders warning them not to "falsely blame premium increases" on the recently passed health care legislation.
“And if she’s going to represent left-wing thought police about Obamacare, she should be forced to resign by the new Congress," he said.
(CNN) – On the same night Sarah Palin roused a crowd of GOP activists in Iowa, country music star and outspoken conservative Trace Adkins told CNN he hopes the former Alaska governor does not run for president.
“She can't win - she's become a punch line,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Friday night. “I love her to death, but i just don't think that she's - i don't think she can win.”
During her Iowa speech Friday, Palin herself made only one direct nod to the presidential implications of her visit to the first-in-the-nation caucus state – a politely-received joke about donning sneakers to "go running Iowa."
But the former vice presidential nominee told reporters earlier Friday she would consider running for president if the right opportunity presented itself.
(CNN) - A watchdog group says it plans to ask authorities in Delaware to investigate Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's finances.
At issue are more than $20,000 of spending in 2009 and 2010 that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington claims was illegal.
"It turns out Miss O'Donnell has treated her campaign funds like they are her very own personal piggy bank. She's used that money to pay for things like her rent, for gas, meals and even a bowling outing. And that's just flat-out illegal," said Melanie Sloan, the group's executive director.
(CNN) – President Obama used his weekly radio and internet address Saturday to target Senate Republicans who are actively opposed to campaign finance legislation that in part requires special interest groups to clearly name themselves in television advertisements they put money behind.
"Now, the special interests want to take Congress back, and return to the days when lobbyists wrote the laws," Obama says in the address. "And a partisan minority in Congress is hoping their defense of these special interests and the status quo will be rewarded with a flood of negative ads against their opponents. It's a power grab, pure and simple."
The legislation is in response to a Supreme Court ruling last year that relaxed disclosure laws among special interest groups. Democrats initially failed to get enough support to bring the bill for a final vote last July.
Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Michigan 3rd-(Open Seat)-Rep. Vern Ehlers (R) is retiring
Primary: August 24, 2010
Location: West-Central Michigan, Grand Rapids
Days Until Election Day: 45
(CNN) – In another life, GOP State Rep. Justin Amash and Democrat Patrick Miles may have met in a boardroom on opposing sides of the table. Instead, both former corporate lawyers are meeting – and competing – against one another in the race to replace the first research physicist elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, GOP Rep.Vern Ehlers. Ehlers has a history of achieving easy victories in Michigan's 3rd district. After eight terms he will retire and attempt to pass the torch to Amash, whom he endorsed in the August 3rd GOP primary. Ehlers can certainly attest to the first law of motion in physics: an object in motion stays in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force. With the national trend turning red, a win for Amash would not appear to require heavy lifting, especially since President Bush won the district with a 19-point margin of victory in 2004. But in 2008, the 3rd district almost succumbed to the blue wave that elected President Obama; John McCain carried the region with only 2,000 votes to spare.
Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - Sarah Palin's maiden voyage to Iowa as a potential presidential candidate was, on its face, a fundraiser for the state Republican Party - and an early chance for the former Alaska governor to get some face time with the caucus-goers who will play a major role in determining the party's nominee in 2012.
Instead, Palin trained her fiery message right at the television cameras in the rear of the room, setting herself up squarely as a national leader fueled by populist Tea Party fury against President Obama and his Democratic allies in Washington.
"This is it, GOP," she said. "This is our time. We can't blow it GOP. But we won't wait for that political playbook to be handed to us on high from the elites. It's we, the people, the average hard-working American people, who will turn this around. It's the voters who will stop this fundamental transformation of America."
(CNN) - After eight years in Republican hands, Hawaii Democrats hope to re-capture the governorship, but first they need to survive a bitter primary.
Saturday voters in the state head to the polls to cast ballots, and the hottest contest appears to be the Democratic gubernatorial battle. Former 11-term Rep. Neil Abercrombie is facing off with former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in what's turned into a nasty race. The two candidates have a rivalry that dates back more than two decades.
Whoever comes out on top in the Democratic primary is expected to be the favorite in the general election against Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, the presumptive GOP nominee. The winner in November will succeed term-limited Gov. Linda Lingle, who eight years ago became the first Republican governor of Hawaii in four decades. Democrats dominate elections in the state and President Barack Obama, who grew up in the state, captured 72 percent of the vote in Hawaii in the 2008 presidential election.