I haven’t mentioned it before now, but Romney was busy this weekend working the Social Conservative vote, and, by all accounts, he did well. For starters, he gave a strong speech at the Values Voters conference, and followed it up with a win in the accompanying straw poll. The results of the straw poll:
Mitt Romney 28%
Mike Huckabee 26%
Ron Paul 15%
Fred Thompson 10%
Sam Brownback 5%
Duncan Hunter 2%
Tom Tancredo 2%
Rudy Giuliani 2%
John McCain 1%
*results rounded to nearest percent – list order reflects poll placement.
Now there are some people trying to say that Huckabee was the real winner because he won the most votes of people who actually cast their ballots in person. While its true that he did win when online votes were excluded, other factors must be considered. Firstly, many people who were at the conference still choose to vote online, rather than stand in long voting lines. Secondly, those wising to vote online had to give a donation, which makes spamming of the poll unlikely. Thirdly, half of winning an election is getting out your supporters, and Romney clearly did this better than anyone else.
From Reuters via MSNBC:
“Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney narrowly won a Republican presidential straw poll of Christian conservatives on Saturday…”
“Romney took 27.6 percent of almost 6,000 votes cast, just ahead of Mike Huckabee, the folksy former governor of Arkansas, who gained 27.1 percent at the conference organized by the Family Research Council.”
“Romney appears to have been making inroads among religious conservatives as he portrays himself as a committed opponent of abortion, despite his relatively recent conversion to their cause. He told the gathering on Friday night that he would be a ”pro-life president.”
I think the bigger news story here is not Romney’s win (since winning important straw polls has become a regular occurrence), or Huckabee’s strong showing (is anyone honestly surprised that a Baptist Minister from Arkansas is popular among Christian Conservatives?), but the weak showing by John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani.
Now, I can’t say why McCain and Thompson did badly, only to say that Thompson has run a (thus-far) unimpressive campaign, and that McCain has virtually been erased from the spotlight. However, Giuliani’s lack of support might be more understandable. For one, his pro-abortion positions (and the weaknesses behind his promises to appoint “constitutionalists”) are becoming clearer, and two, he tried to tell the Social Conservatives that they should ignore his socially liberal policies and instead focus on the issues he likes to talk about.
Again, from MSNBC:
“In his speech on Saturday, Giuliani appealed to his audience to look beyond his support for abortion rights and focus on shared values, such as fighting crime and his vow to relentlessly pursue the war on terror.
“I truly believe that what unites us is greater than any of the things which divide us,” Giuliani, a former New York mayor, said to the crowd of mostly white evangelical Protestants who comprise a key segment of the Republican base.”
I’m not exactly sure who told him it was a good idea to try to lessen the importance of a group of issues – in front of its strongest supporters.