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"I am a Christian, a conservative and a Republican – in that order," declared Indiana Rep. Mike Pence to the audience at the 2010 Values Voters Summit. His message apparently resonated with the coalition of conservative groups and political organizations that gathered for the Washington straw poll. Pence took first place in the poll among potential 2012 GOP candidates (excluding Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who had his name withdrawn), topping far bigger names such as Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, corralling 24 percent of the vote. While the Values Voters summit gave Sen. Pence a much-needed introduction to the national stage, political observers aren't so sure that the straw poll means he can contend in, say, socially conservative Iowa in 2012 just yet.

  • Who Is Mike Pence? The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath and Tennille Tracy give readers a primer on the Indiana congressman: "Mr. Pence opposes abortion and gay marriage—key issues for social conservatives—and has credentials with fiscal conservatives. In addition to battling President Barack Obama's fiscal policies, he led a failed revolt against former President George W. Bush's campaign for federal prescription-drug benefits for the elderly, saying he didn't want to create new federal entitlements. He also voted against the 2008 Wall Street-bailout bill advanced by the Bush administration."

  • What Did He Win, and by How Much? This year's Values Voters Summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council, is seen as a very early bellwether poll of whom social conservatives (and prominent social conservative organizations and political action committees) will likely throw their weight behind in the 2012 GOP primaries. According to ABC News, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence won the event with 24 percent of the vote, 2 percent more than Mike Huckabee, 11 percent more than Mitt Romney and 16 percent more than Sarah Palin.
  • What His Victory Means "Depending upon how those tea leaves are read, there can be two conclusions," writes Brad Knickerbocker at The Christian Science Monitor. 1) "That this socially conservative GOP base is not exactly in line with the tea party insurgency shaking up the political scene. (Many libertarians are pro-choice on abortion.)" Or 2) "that looking at the list of recent winners in Republican primaries – most recently Christine O’Donnell in Delaware – social conservatives can easily ride the tea party wave."
  • 'I Have No Plans To Run For President' stated Pence (perhaps coyly) in an interview with Felicia Sonmez at The Washington Post. "But in a sign of Pence's rising popularity, he won the top spot in both the presidential and the vice presidential straw poll, beating out Palin by seven votes in the VP race."
  • Doesn't Really Improve His Chances writes Shane Vander Hart at Caffienated Thoughts, who doesn't think the straw poll results predict much for 2012: "it isn’t an accurate reflection of the electorate or even value voters for that matter since only Family Research Council Action members who were present at the event could vote. Also only those who actually speak at the Value Voters Summit do well. So the fact that Sarah Palin was only 5th doesn’t surprise me, that she did as well as she did without being there does surprise me." The only potential candidate who was impacted by the straw polling, Hart hedges, was Mitt Romney: "Consider that Romney won in 2007, and has gone down in this straw poll every year since despite making an appearance every year shows lost ground with social conservatives. That will not help him win early caucus and primary states of Iowa and South Carolina."
  • 'Hardly a Reliable Predictor' says The Los Angeles Time's Michael A. Memoli dismissively. "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."
  • Right Now: It's About The Midterms  Mike Pence speaks with George Stephanopoulos on ABC after his victory and keeps the focus squarely on the 2010 elections:

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