Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has a plea for those interested in the straw poll results of the evangelical Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. this weekend: Crunch the numbers.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney took first place in the Family Research Council's (FRC) poll of more than 5,000 voters, but just barely: Romney won by 30 votes. But Huckabee's supporters insist that almost winning isn't the real news: They say Huckabee actually won by a landslide.
In the moments after FRC president Tony Perkins announced the results of the straw poll to some 2,000 evangelicals and conservatives gathered at a three-day conference that featured speeches from all nine Republican presidential candidates, Perkins explained a crucial caveat to those results: Many people voted online. The FRC allowed people from around the country to begin voting in the straw poll online in August, while others voted at kiosks on site at the conference this weekend.
That wasn't a secret, but it did put Romney's win in perspective: While Romney won 27 percent of the total votes in the straw poll, he won only 10 percent of votes cast at the conference. Instead, it was Huckabee who dominated the summit: He won 51 percent of the votes cast on site this weekend, swamping every other candidate. Romney trailed in second place by 389 votes.
Jeremiah Lorrig finds that dynamic confusing. The 24-year-old Huckabee supporter said he thinks the FRC "mishandled" the straw poll by allowing people who didn't attend the conference or listen to the candidates' speeches to vote. "I think the opinions of the people who are actually here are more representative of evangelicals," he said.
When reporters grilled Perkins about that dynamic at a press conference, Perkins defended the poll, saying that the FRC clearly published the straw poll procedures months ago, and that every campaign had an equal opportunity to mobilize online voters.
Despite the complexity, Huckabee drew major buzz at the conference with a Saturday morning speech that drew the most enthusiastic response of the weekend. As prominent Christian leaders continued to grapple with which candidate to support, Huckabee supporter Eric Lupardus wondered why they haven't backed Huckabee: "What they're looking for is right there in front of them."