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Huckabee beats Palin, other potential GOP contenders, in straw poll at Values Voter Summit

September 19, 2009 |  6:05 pm

Sarah Palin didn’t do herself any favors with conservative Christian voters by not accepting their speaking invitation this weekend, judging by the results of a Republican presidential straw poll at a Washington confab for political activists.

It was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who creamed the competition in the highly unscientific contest, which was conducted at the two-day Values Voter Summit, sponsored by the Family Research Group.

Mike Huckabee

Huckabee, who has been hosting a talk show on Fox News, garnered 28.4% of nearly 600 votes cast. With 12% of the vote, Palin was in a virtual tie for second with three others — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney,  Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence.

Was Huckabee’s victory a surprise? Not really, said Family Research Council head Tony Perkins. After all, unlike Palin, he showed up Friday and gave a warmly received speech. Plus, evangelicals who mistrusted his record as a fiscal conservative and felt he lacked foreign policy experience feel that he’s made strides in both areas, Perkins said.

Palin’s poor showing said Perkins, was probably due to “people questioning the decisions she’s made lately. And she wasn’t here. You’re not going to get support here just based on your reputation.”

Huckabee, who you will recall, pulled off a surprise victory in Iowa last year in the first contest of the primary season, was folksy and pointed in his remarks Friday: “Well, over the last few months the audacity of hope has become the audacity of hypocrisy. It is, at times, a country that is almost difficult to recognize. We have become the land of czars, clunker cars and Hollywood stars, but unfortunately it’s also become a place where we have lost any semblance of those promises of transparency and accountability.”

Romney, whose Mormon religion was the source of discomfort to some evangelicals in the Republican primary last year, was warmly received by the crowd. “I don’t think that’s an issue that keeps him from being considered,” Perkins said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul, who raised prodigious amounts of money last year during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, all scored in the single digits.

As for the issues that were most important in determining which candidate to support, abortion ranked No.1 by 40% of those voting (virtually the same as last year’s straw poll). Protection of religious liberty came in second, with 18%, and same-sex marriage a distant third, with 7.3%. Other very low ranking issues included public display of the Ten Commandments, prayer in schools, embryonic stem cell research and enforcement of obscenity laws

-- Robin Abcarian

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Photo: Mike Huckabee at the Gush Katif Museum during a trip to Jerusalem in August. Credit: Associated Press.