2012 Hopefuls Convene at Value Voters Summit
Around the State
Religious conservatives will assemble in Washington this weekend to take part in the Value Voters Summit -- and to take part in a straw poll which will serve as an early test of strength to see which Republican hopefuls will appeal to this pivotal group of primary voters.
The event is being sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC), the Heritage Foundation, Liberty University and American Values, a conservative organization headed up by former FRC chairman and Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who will be speaking at the summit.
Look for Florida connections to this year’s summit. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who moved to Fort Walton Beach earlier in the year, will be speaking. So will Billie Tucker, an organizer with the First Coast Tea Party.
“This is a very conservative group of people coming together,” said Tucker, who will talk about how the tea party movement will shape the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Other speakers in attendance will include former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett, U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachman, R-Minn., and Christine O’Donnell, who upset U.S. Rep. Mike Castle on Tuesday in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate election in Delaware.
Other speakers include some of the leading candidates eyeing the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 -- an indicator of how important the straw poll can be for their aspirations.
"The first 2012 presidential primaries may be more than a year away, but values voters are already surveying the very wide field of possible candidates," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "Recent primary elections demonstrate that conservative voters are looking to vote and work hard for those candidates who have distinguished themselves on both fiscal and social issues. This early test of the presidential field will provide an early indication of who might be the candidate of real change in 2012."
Huckabee won the straw poll in 2007, helping his dark-horse bid for the Republican nomination outlast those of his more established rivals. Huckabee also won the poll in 2009, taking 28 percent of the vote in a nine-candidate field.
Other possible presidential candidates will also be able to make their case. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and is very likely to try again, will be speaking at the event. So will former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich who is eying a run in 2012.
Also speaking will be former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Santorum, who lost his bid for a third term in 2006, has been hitting the campaign trail in states that hold key primaries and caucuses -- including Iowa and New Hampshire last month. He is making religion in the public square one of the cornerstones of his appearances, a topic that should play well among summit attendees.
In a speech at the University of St. Thomas in Houston last week, Santorum marked the 50th anniversary of a speech in Houston by John F. Kennedy Jr., assuring the Greater Houston Ministerial Association that his Catholic faith would not influence his course of conduct if he were elected president. Santorum took aim at Kennedy’s remarks.
“Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith,” said Santorum.
“Ultimately Kennedy’s attempt to reassure Protestants that the Catholic Church would not control the government and suborn its independence, advanced a philosophy of strict separation that would create a purely secular public square cleansed of all religious wisdom and the voice of religious people of all faiths,” continued Santorum. “He laid the foundation for attacks on religious freedom and freedom of speech by the secular left and its political arms like the ACLU and the People for the American Way. This has and will continue to create dissension and division in this country as people of faith increasingly feel like second-class citizens.”
Santorum said that Kennedy’s assurances have helped undermine the role of religion in the public square, pointing to a suit by the ACLU to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and the state of Massachusetts forcing Catholic Charities of Boston out of helping adoptions due to a new law forcing them to help homosexual couples in the adoption process.
While Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who is considering running for the Republican presidential nomination, will be speaking, he asked that his name be taken out of the straw poll.
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Bachmann will also be speaking and included in the straw poll, though not all observers and pundits believe they will try for the Republican presidential nod in 2012.
Other names in the mix at the straw poll include Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.
Huckabee is not the only candidate with Florida roots. Former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the Republican nominee in the U.S Senate race, has also been included in the straw poll. The Rubio campaign team has downplayed talk about the presidency, preferring to focus on the contest in November.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.