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October 24, 2007
Column #1,365
Values Voters Choose Huckabee
by Mike McManus

WASHINGTON - Last weekend more than 2,000 people attended a Voter Values Summit hosted by the Family Research Council. All Presidential candidates were invited but only Republicans showed up, nine of them.

Two weeks ago FRC President Tony Perkins predicted that one or two candidates "will emerge with a strong consensus of support from social conservatives." In this column, I asked, "Could that propel them past Giuliani, derailing his candidacy?"  My answer: "Possibly, but if only one emerges triumphant."

To my surprise that is exactly what happened.  Of those who heard every candidate speak, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won a decisive 51 percent of the vote - more than all other candidates combined!  That was five times the 10 percent who voted for Romney, for example.  Rudy Giuliani won a thin 6 percent, and Fred Thompson, 8 percent.

Giuliani won the respect of the group by showing up, but changed no minds. He did pledge to appoint Supreme Court justices like John Roberts and Antonin Scalia and noted as mayor that he increased adoptions by 133 percent while decreasing abortions by 18 percent.  He avoided commenting on marriage because he favors gay civil unions. However, in national polls he leads Thompson and McCain by 8-11 percent.

Values Voters were not swayed by poll numbers but demonstrated "a strong desire to stick with principles, rather than take a pragmatic view of the candidates," said Tom Minnery, editor of Citizen magazine of Focus on the Family. Had they been pragmatic, they would have chosen Thompson or Romney who are second and third in the polls.

Huckabee's opening words resonated with attendees when he said he appeared "not as one who comes to you, but as one who comes from you." Boisterous cheering erupted. 

He demonstrated toughness in the need to stand up to "Islamofascism: This threat is one we cannot negotiate, accommodate, or placate. It is one which we must eradicate" because it is an ideology "committed to our destruction."

On a broader security concern, he charged, "A nation that cannot feed itself, that cannot fuel itself, and that fight for itself with its own weapons which it manufactures itself is a nation no longer free."

Why is America importing so many workers?  "Because for the last 35 years we have aborted more than 1 million people" a year. He supported a Constitutional Amendment to limit marriage to a man and a woman. He said he sings from his heart, and doesn't merely lip-synch the lyrics."  He held to the "non-negotiables of life and marriage."

In a press conference I asked if he would support replacing No Fault Divorce in cases involving children with "Mutual Consent," halting a practice in which four of five divorces are forced by one spouse on another. "Absolutely," he replied.

By contrast, Fred Thompson assured the Values Voters that in his first hour as President he would pray for guidance.  It sounded like lip-synching from a man who doesn't attend church.

The FRC Straw Poll allowed anyone who paid $1 to register with FRC Action to vote on line, even if they had not heard the candidates in person. Of 5,775 people voting in the straw poll, most of whom were not present, Romney won 1,595 votes or 27.6 percent, slightly edging out Huckabee who garnered 1,565 votes, 27.1 percent.

By that measure, the process surfaced two candidates worth considering.

However, Romney supporters across the country were told how to register and vote for their candidate.  Opponents called it ballot stuffing. Of course, any candidate could do the same. Romney used a teleprompter to give a flawless speech, in which he pledged support for a Marriage Amendment and said he'd be a pro-life candidate "just like I was a pro-life governor."

That's not much of a recommendation. After his alleged conversion to a pro-life stance, he appointed gay judges to courts. Many evangelicals are troubled by his Mormon faith, yet are impressed with his solid marriage to one woman (unlike Giuliani, Thompson or McCain). He sat on the Marriott board, when it voted to pump hard-core porn into hotel rooms, yet told delegates,  he had a "one strike and you're out policy on pornography."

More lip-synching.

To the attendees, who spent hundreds of dollars to travel to Washington to hear every candidate, Huckabee was the clear winner. That may move him into the top tier of candidates.

While Huckabee can claim a clear victory, it won't help unless he can raises millions to  challenge Giuliani, Romney and Thompson.

 
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