Huckabee wins round one in 2012 Republican race
Former Arkanas Governor and Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee has won the first informal round in what will no doubt be a long race to head the party’s White House ticket in 2012.
The affable Baptist preacher, who won the hearts and minds of conservative evangelicals during his failed 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, topped other possible Republican presidential contenders in a straw poll at a summit of Christian conservative voters in Washington.
Out of a field of nine, Huckabee garnered the most votes or 28.5 percent. Delegates to the convention were asked: “Thinking ahead to the 2012 presidential election and assuming the nomination of Barack Obama as Democtats’ choice for president, who would you vote for as the Republicans nominee for president?”
Surprisingly, former Alaska Governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who lit up the party’s conservative Christian base last year, came in fourth with 12 percent. Her relatively poor performance could have been linked to her failure to attend the summit — Huckabee delivered a rousing speech on Friday.
Huckabee’s arch rival in the 2008 race, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, was the runner-up with 12.4 percent. He also gave a well-received speech that stuck mostly to economic and foreign policy themes.
Like any straw poll, this one counts for nothing. But it does give an idea of what this key Republican base is looking for as the party tries to chart a path back to power in Congress and the White House.
The second question on the straw poll asked the almost 2,000 delegates — of whom about 600 responded — to indicate the most important issue in determining their choice of candidate out of a list of 13 choices.
Abortion won by a long shot at almost 41 percent, while “protection of religious liberty” was a distant second at 18 percent.
Some observers have suggested the conservative Christian movement, known as the “Religious Right,” needs to expand its agenda beyond “hot-button social issues” if it wants to grow and have political and electoral success. And much of its leadership has been talking more about issues such as poverty.
The movement has also turned its attention to climate change in response to Obama’s agenda, which includes proposed legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Conservative Christian radio stations have spent the summer assailing the “cap and trade” provisions of this legislation as a massive tax hike and several of the delegates whom I spoke to expressed skepticism if not hostility to the widely accepted scientific idea that humans are causing climate change.
One of the break-out sessions on Saturday was called “Global Warming Hysteria: The New Face of the ‘Pro-Death’ Agenda.” For a synposis of this and other sessions click here.
But it is clear that abortion remains by far the biggest issue to this crowd — and even when they talk about climate change these “pro-lifers” talk about the “culture of death.” Time will tell if this is an electoral winner or loser for the Republican Party.