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The Fix at the Values Voter Summit

By Felicia Sonmez

The Fix is live at the Family Research Council's fifth annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., today, where a host of potential White House 2012 hopefuls including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) are addressing a crowd of about 2,000 social conservatives from across the country.

Who will emerge as the White House hopeful (or hopefuls) on the top of social conservatives' lists? Will speakers link social issues to economic issues? Check back here throughout the day for all the latest on the day's proceedings.

Updated: 2:40 p.m.

FRC Action just sent out a text message that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), the runaway winner of last year's straw poll, has placed second this time around. The announcement comes as something of a surprise -- Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, has long enjoyed support from social conservatives. On the other hand, in announcing last year's straw poll results, one FRC official said that voters may be "looking for a new voice out there." Will today's results reflect that?

Updated: 2:20 p.m.

The results of the presidential straw poll will be announced within the hour. Here's a look at the ballot. The 17 candidates in the running, all Republicans, are:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), Florida Senate nominee Marco Rubio, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Sen. John Thune (S.D.).

There's also the option of voting for "Undecided."

Of those on the ballot, seven -- DeMint, Gingrich, Huckabee, McDonnell, Pence, Romney and Santorum -- have addressed the summit thus far.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) were initially slated to appear on the ballot but have since pulled their names off.

Pawlenty, who made his debut at last year's summit but is skipping this time because he's on a trade mission in Asia, is slated to deliver a speech via video tonight. He told reporters on a conference call Friday that he "didn't think it would be appropriate to participate" in the straw poll if he couldn't attend the summit.

Updated: Saturday, September 18, 11:18 a.m.

We're back for the second day of the Values Voter Summit, which kicked off this morning with speeches by a few more GOP luminaries ahead of the release of the presidential straw poll results this afternoon.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been making moves for a potential 2012 White House run, took to the podium and delivered a speech devoted to slamming radical Islam, establishment elites and the "secular socialist machine."

Speaking the morning after Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced that she will pursue re-election as a write-in candidate, Gingrich took aim at the senator's decision to run against attorney Joe Miller (R), who bested her in the Aug. 24 primary.

"Senator Murkowski is fundamentally cheating," Gingrich told the crowd.

He predicted that Delaware Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell (R) "is going to win" in her race against New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) and poked fun at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's remark that Coons was his "pet" and "favorite candidate."

"I love pets," Gingrich said. "But I do not think they should serve in the United States Senate."

Gingrich heralded the gains that "tea party" candidates have made in this year's primaries, pointing to the role that national Republicans such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) have played in boosting insurgent candidates.

"The establishment is in a state of shock," Gingrich said.

Gingrich has been one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed construction of an Islamic center near ground zero. He devoted much of his speech Saturday morning to denouncing supporters of the center and telling the crowd that he is "totally opposed to any effort to impose sharia in the United States."

"There were 54 car bombings in the last year. Forty-seven were by radical Islamists," Gingrich said, adding that "zero" were carried out by listeners of conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Gingrich was followed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who delivered a more policy-focused speech and joked, "I am from the government, and I am here to help."

Straw poll voting is taking place until 1 p.m., and the results are slated to be announced at 3 p.m. Stay tuned.

Updated: Friday, September 17, 2:40 p.m.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) took the stage shortly after 2 p.m. to a standing ovation from the crowd.

Santorum, who delivered a searing speech at last year's summit focusing on the threat of Islamic extremism, used his remarks this year to emphasize the importance of faith in the public square, telling the crowd that social issues aren't just important in charting the country's course - they're essential to economic freedom.

"We can have no economic freedom unless we have good, virtuous people inspired by their faith," Santorum said. "Limited government can only occur in a society where there are strong families, strong churches and virtue."

He told the crowd that "something big is going on. And it's not just economics. It's not just economics. The very basis of our civilization is at a turning point."

Santorum struck a more ominous tone than some of the previous speakers of the day, delivering a speech that held the audience in rapt attention but didn't have them leaping to their feet.

Some highlights of Santorum's remarks, which he delivered at the podium sans teleprompter:

"John F. Kennedy gave a speech that was necessary to give at the time as the first Catholic to have a serious chance of winning the presidency. ... He said that 'I believe in an America where separation of church and state is absolute.' Well, that never was and never will be the standard in America. Maybe in France, but it's not in America."

"Go into the neighborhoods in America where there's a lack of virtue. What will you find? Two things. No families. No mothers and fathers together. You will find government everywhere."

"When people come out and tell us that we have to put the values issues in the back of the bus, we have to have a 'truce' on the values issues, because the economic issues are paramount -- we can have no economic freedom unless we have good, virtuous moral people inspired by their faith."

"This election in 2010 is the most important election of our lifetime. ... Barack Obama will still be president November 3, 2010 and he will not be for repealing Obamacare. He will not be for reducing taxes. He will not be for cutting spending. There should be no popping of champagne corks on November 2. ... It is simply a step."

Updated: 2:05 p.m.

And we're back! The afternoon's speeches are about to kick off. Some of the speakers slated to take the podium in the next few hours are former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Delaware Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell (R). Stay tuned for more.

Updated: 12:30 p.m.

Just as things were wrapping up here in the auditorium at the Omni Shoreham hotel before lunch, we chatted with Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) about his speech.

Pence said he was "very humbled" by the enthusiastic reception he received.

"My message today was that this is the moment, now is the time, and that it's important that our movement bring together Americans who are committed to a strong defense, committed to fiscal responsibility and committed to traditional moral values -- that when we're united as a party, that's when we have the opportunity to prevail," Pence said.

Asked whether voters are as focused on social issues as they are on economic issues this year - and whether the two are compatible - Pence noted that he's spoken at several events focused on economic issues, including the National 9/12 March on Washington this year and last.

"When I've said to people that our present crisis is not just economic and political but moral, I have sensed from the crowd stronger agreement on that point than on any other point," Pence said.

He added that while Americans are "fed up with runaway spending by both political parties, at the core of that is the sense of the need to get back to basics -- that the American people want to see us get back to cherishing the value and dignity of every human life, get back to the importance of traditional marriage and get back to the importance of religion in everyday life."

Pence declined to speculate on whether Republicans will take back the House and the Senate. "I'll leave that to the pundits, but what's encouraging to me is to see so many new, courageous men and women standing unapologetically for conservative values," he said.

Asked about a potential White House run in 2012, Pence replied: "I have no plans to run for president."

Updated: 12:00 p.m.

As at Values Voter Summits past, the program is speeding along right on schedule. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) took the stage to warm and enthusiastic applause, although Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) was a tough act to follow.

The bulk of Romney's speech was focused squarely on criticism of President Obama. The crowd cheered Romney on and interrupted him several times with applause, giving him a standing ovation as he left the stage. No "Romney for president" calls from the crowd, however. (The well-oiled Romney operation is also in full force: he's the only speaker thus far with an aide on hand distributing hard copies of his speech to the press.)

Highlights from Romney's remarks, which he delivered from a teleprompter at the podium:

"Welcome to the Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, President Obama farewell party. This has been a pretty tough year for those three -- their numbers have gone down the chute faster than a Jet Blue flight attendant."

"Some pollsters are predicting that conservatives will enjoy a landmark victory. I can't guarantee a specific outcome, but one thing I know: America will repudiate Obama-style liberalism. Part of the reason is the abject failure of his first two years in office."

"Instead of focusing on jobs and the economy, he used the crisis as cover to push his liberal agenda, from cap and trade to an ill-conceived takeover of healthcare. America is sick and tired of an Administration that exploited the economic crisis, instead of solving it."

"The president and his fellow-travelers in Congress implemented the most anti-growth, anti-investment, anti-jobs measures we've seen in our lifetimes. He called it ambitious. It was reckless."

"Of course, the economy is slowly getting better and eventually it will right itself. It will be thanks to the hard work and innovation of the American people. Vice President Biden will say that he and the president deserve the credit. No, they have prolonged the recession, extended the pain of joblessness and added to the burden of debt that will hang over the economy for generations."

"It's ironic that a president who said he would unite the country has turned out to be one of the most divisive in history. But he has succeeded in one way: he has united most of the voters against him."

The program is taking a short break now for lunch and straw poll voting. We'll be back here for former Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-Pa.) speech, which kicks off at 2 p.m.

Updated: 11:40 a.m.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) took the stage at 11:15 a.m., to raucous applause after a fiery speech from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn). He delivered his remarks from the podium, largely reading from notes, and received BY FAR the most enthusiastic reception of the morning thus far, with the crowd leaping to their feet several times.

Halfway through Pence's speech, a man called out, "Pence for president!" Several others responded with cheers.

Highlights from Pence's twenty-minute speech:

"I'm proud to stand here as we are gathered today at the beginning of the end of the Pelosi-led Congress on Capitol Hill."

"We have 'When Harry Met Sharron' playing in Nevada, Joe the Senator in Alaska, and Delaware's about to send a conservative to the United States Senate."

"I'm a Christian, I'm a conservative and I'm a Republican, in that order."

"After a year that saw every single House Republican vote against that phony stimulus bill, every single House Republican vote against the budget-busting budget, and every single House Republican vote against their government takeover of health care, I'm here to say that House conservatives are back in the fight, and we're back in the fight for conservative values."

"Our party must have the courage to produce a vision for a better America."

"To folks who say it would be difficult to repeal and replace Obamacare, I tell you it's a two-step process. First, we repeal the Pelosi Congress in 2010 and then we replace the Obama administration in 2012."

Updated: 10:34 a.m.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) took the stage at about 9:50 a.m. to a standing ovation and big cheers -- much more enthusiastic reception than former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) got half an hour earlier.

Unlike Huckabee, DeMint left the podium and strolled the stage while he gave his 20-minute speech. He got his biggest cheers when he talked about how he "stirred up" GOP primaries this year, mentioning Alaska's Joe Miller (even though DeMint endorsed Miller after the primary).

As he wrapped up, one man in the back of the room yelled, "DeMint for president!" (Worth noting: No one made any such calls when Huckabee left the stage.)

One big applause line:

"We don't want the government pushing our religion, but we don't want the government purging our society of the values and principles that are derived from religion."

Other highlights from DeMint's speech:

"We've seen the power shift from Washington out to the people, where it's supposed to be in a country where it should be government of and for and by the people. It's happening now. It's got a lot of people here in Washington scared."

"I hear regularly as I travel around the country, someone will tell me, 'I'm a fiscal conservative, but I'm not a social conservative. I want to straighten them out a little bit this morning, because the fact is, you cannot be a real fiscal conservative if you do not understand the value of having a culture that's based on values."

"There is a big tent out there waiting for us on November the 2nd this year. I think you're going to see Americans more united than they've ever been before. And within this move for fiscal discipline, behind it, there's a faith component that's stronger than I've ever seen in this country."

"As some of you know, I've been working for the last year to stir up some vigorous primaries. ... Instead of diminishing our party, because of you, people like you all over the country, there's been one upset after another all over the country."

"There's been some senior Republicans in the Senate who went out and campaigned on, 'You need me to bring home the bacon.' But even in Alaska, the home of bacon, they threw out that senator and ushered in Joe Miller, who has said ... I don't want to bankrupt my country."

"This is no longer about voting for the least worst on the ballot."

Updated: 9:46 a.m.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who was the runaway winner of last year's straw poll, was the first major speaker at this year's Values Voter Summit. He gave a twenty-minute speech that was equal part emphasis on social issues and criticism of the Obama administration on the economy, health care and the BP response.

His closing message: "It's right to go vote and it's right to make America proud again. And we know that." The reception Huckabee got from the several hundred attendees was warm, but not exactly fired-up.

A few highlights from his speech:

"We have somehow amazingly survived Barack Obama's 'Recovery Summer.' ... But I'm looking forward to our 'Recovery Fall,' when we take back the House and the Senate."

"I'm hoping Jeremiah Wright looks out his window on November 2 and he'll finally see those chickens come home to roost."

"We've come to believe that America is unique. It's exceptional. And it's where the government is not here to feed us, it's not here to lead us, and it sure isn't here to bleed us."

"Ours is not so much a fiscal crisis as a family crisis. ... God never intended the government to raise our kids."

"We are the party of no, but not n-o. We are the party of know, k-n-o-w."

"It's right to go vote and it's right to make America proud again. And we know that."

By Felicia Sonmez  | September 18, 2010; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012  
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Next: Mike Pence takes top spot in Values Voter Summit straw poll

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