Romney, Huckabee Top Straw Poll at Value Voters Summit

Rick Moran
The Christian right, deeply divided in their presidential preference, gave Mitt Romney a technical victory in a straw poll conducted at the Value Voters Summit in Washington yesterday.

But it was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, who wowed the assembly with a speech full of biblical allusions and southern charm, finishing second and raising his profile considerably.

Rich Lowry of NRO was very impressed:

Wow. Let me repeat: Wow. What an incredible communicator. His message has gotten stronger with the accent on Buchanesque nationalist/protectionist notes, and he speaks the language of these kind of voters better than anyone. I found myself getting goose-bumps near the end of his speech when he invoked a long series of Biblical underdogs, beginning with David and his five smooth stones. He made as strong a case as possible for putting all pragmatic considerations aside and going with him.
The vote was controversial because the count included on line voting carried out over the last several months. An analysis of the vote afterwards showed Huckabee winning among those who actually attended.

Huckabee's star has been on the rise in Iowa with the latest Rasmussen poll showing him in third place with 18%, barely trailing Fred Thompson's 19% for second and within striking distance of Romney's 25%. Nationally, he's still a virtual unknown, polling only 5% in the latest CNN tally.

That may change over the next 10 days as Huckabee is going to get a hard look from the religious right. His media profile will probably also rise considerably as the press begins to take note of his surge. This can only translate into trouble for Fred Thompson whose performance has been judged sub-par by the inside the beltway crowd and who was expected to receive the lion's share of  evangelical support.

Romney, whose Mormon religion and recent conversion to an anti-abortion position has not enthused the religious right, had counted on his
superior organization to bring him victory:

The Romney campaign trumpeted the victory, but there was only a smattering of applause in the auditorium when his name was announced and the event’s organizers cautioned against his deriving any kind of mandate from the results. Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, delivered an address Friday laden with policy commitments, but he faces continued skepticism about his Mormon faith, which he addressed only in passing in his speech. He has also been criticized for his relatively recent conversion to an abortion opponent.

The 2,500 attendees of the summit will now return to their churches and grass-roots organizations to weigh their choices. It is clear many are charged up about Mr. Huckabee, and there is at least some support for Mr. Romney and others, but many questions still remain.
It is not likely Huckabee will overtake Rudy Giuliani although a second place finish in Iowa would probably propel his candidacy into the top tier of contenders. What he may do is siphon votes from both Romney and Thompson giving Giulian's national campaign strategy a huge boost, making the former New York mayor the prohibitive favorite to wrap up the nomination early.
The Christian right, deeply divided in their presidential preference, gave Mitt Romney a technical victory in a straw poll conducted at the Value Voters Summit in Washington yesterday.

But it was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, who wowed the assembly with a speech full of biblical allusions and southern charm, finishing second and raising his profile considerably.

Rich Lowry of NRO was very impressed:

Wow. Let me repeat: Wow. What an incredible communicator. His message has gotten stronger with the accent on Buchanesque nationalist/protectionist notes, and he speaks the language of these kind of voters better than anyone. I found myself getting goose-bumps near the end of his speech when he invoked a long series of Biblical underdogs, beginning with David and his five smooth stones. He made as strong a case as possible for putting all pragmatic considerations aside and going with him.
The vote was controversial because the count included on line voting carried out over the last several months. An analysis of the vote afterwards showed Huckabee winning among those who actually attended.

Huckabee's star has been on the rise in Iowa with the latest Rasmussen poll showing him in third place with 18%, barely trailing Fred Thompson's 19% for second and within striking distance of Romney's 25%. Nationally, he's still a virtual unknown, polling only 5% in the latest CNN tally.

That may change over the next 10 days as Huckabee is going to get a hard look from the religious right. His media profile will probably also rise considerably as the press begins to take note of his surge. This can only translate into trouble for Fred Thompson whose performance has been judged sub-par by the inside the beltway crowd and who was expected to receive the lion's share of  evangelical support.

Romney, whose Mormon religion and recent conversion to an anti-abortion position has not enthused the religious right, had counted on his
superior organization to bring him victory:

The Romney campaign trumpeted the victory, but there was only a smattering of applause in the auditorium when his name was announced and the event’s organizers cautioned against his deriving any kind of mandate from the results. Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, delivered an address Friday laden with policy commitments, but he faces continued skepticism about his Mormon faith, which he addressed only in passing in his speech. He has also been criticized for his relatively recent conversion to an abortion opponent.

The 2,500 attendees of the summit will now return to their churches and grass-roots organizations to weigh their choices. It is clear many are charged up about Mr. Huckabee, and there is at least some support for Mr. Romney and others, but many questions still remain.
It is not likely Huckabee will overtake Rudy Giuliani although a second place finish in Iowa would probably propel his candidacy into the top tier of contenders. What he may do is siphon votes from both Romney and Thompson giving Giulian's national campaign strategy a huge boost, making the former New York mayor the prohibitive favorite to wrap up the nomination early.