So Mike Huckabee won the Values Voters Summit 2012 straw poll with 28 percent of the vote, while second place was shared by Palin, Pawlenty, Pence, and Romney, each of whom picked up about 12 percent. Does that mean anything? Neither WaPo’s Chris Cillizza nor Time‘s Amy Sullivan thinks so, and it’s hard to disagree. A lot of the folks at the summit didn’t bother to vote–2012 is a long way away. Moreover, Values Voters straw polls cannot be taken at face value.
Two years ago, the last time the Summit held one, Huck was nosed out by Romney when a bunch of votes came in electronically. (This time, you actually had to be there in person to cast your ballot.) But a month prior to the 2007 Summit poll, there was a Values Voter Debate where Huckabee cleaned up with 64 percent of the vote and Romney got zero; however, Huckabee actually participated and Romney didn’t.
More telling than the numbers this time was the performance itself. Two years ago, Huck was a fresh face in a slimmed down body, energetic in his delivery, connecting briskly with his audience. His made an effort to focus attention on the Values themselves–almost in (dare I say it) a post-partisan way; to wit: “I do not spell “G-O-D” “G-O-P.”
Last week, he seemed to be going through the motions, delivering standard G-O-P talking points without much attention to who was in the audience. He’s put some weight back on, which made him a less than persuasive spokesman for the Huckabee approach to health care reform–getting Americans to exercise more. Right, Mike. He was introduced to the audience as a “statesman and big-time TV celebrity.” He did not look like someone itching to get back on the campaign trail.