Indiana Rep. Mike Pence was the top choice for a 2012 presidential candidate among conservative activists who attended this weekend’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, edging a field of more well-known Republican figures in an early test of grass-roots support.
Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference, received 24% of the vote, edging the winner of the 2009 straw poll, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who received 22%. Each addressed the gathering on Friday, as did third-place finisher Mitt Romney, who won 13% of the vote.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who spoke Saturday, received 10%. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who did not attend, finished a distant fifth, with just 7%.
Of the nearly 2,000 people who registered for the conference, 723 voted in the straw poll. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, whose group organized the event, said the results are “descriptive of the type of candidate value voters would be looking for.”
Straw polls such as this one are hardly reliable predictors of a potential candidate’s viability as a presidential hopeful. Other Republicans seen as potential candidates lagged in the field; Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who did not attend, asked that his name be removed from the ballot.
Palin did not attend, choosing instead to deliver the keynote speech Friday at the Iowa Republican Party’s Reagan Dinner.