Who Won and Who Lost at the Values Voter Summit

By
Herman Cain: Winner. Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Now that the Values Voter Summit has come and gone, let's take a look at how each candidate fared and what the annual gathering of social conservative activists meant for their campaigns:

Rick Perry: Loser
Perry himself seemed, for the most part, tailor-made for this kind of rah-rah America, rah-rah Jesus crowd, and his speech was well received, despite his recent struggles. And yet Perry only managed 8 percent in the straw poll, tied for fourth place. No doubt wariness over his illegal-immigration credentials, as well as lingering bad-blood over his "heartless" remark, have depressed his support. He still has plenty of time to win back the voters he's lost, but this was a bad omen for him. He's the most conservative candidate who's also a viable contender for the nomination — he should have dominated.

Mitt Romney: Loser
For someone who has a pretty good chance of capturing the GOP nomination, garnering only 4 percent in the straw poll is a sign — not that one was needed, really — that he has a lot of ground to cover with the far right. When Romney talked about gays in his speech, he was just as adamant as the next person that they don't get married. When he talked about abortion, he was just as adamant as the next person that Roe v. Wade be overturned. He went after President Obama relentlessly. But there's a distrust there among the voters, a conviction that Romney is a moderate at his core. Then there's the Mormonism issue. The less Romney's religion — particularly how it is allegedly un-Christian and cultlike — becomes a topic of discussion, the better for Romney, but the remarks of Pastor Robert Jeffress at the Summit on Friday got the ball rolling. Both Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain dodged on Sunday when they were asked whether Mormons are Christians. As long as the question continues to elicit such awkward responses, the media is going to keep asking.

Herman Cain: Winner
We're still fairly certain that Cain doesn't have much of a shot at winning the nomination, but he had a great overall performance at the Summit, one that should keep his momentum going. His speech was easily the best received of the weekend, with multiple standing ovations and near-constant applause. He took home second place in the straw poll to Ron Paul, but considering Paul's formidable straw-poll turnout operation, that's almost like an honorary first place.

Ron Paul: Winner
Paul dominated the straw poll, with 37 percent to Cain's 23 percent, a reflection of the unmatched passion and devotion of the libertarian's followers. On Saturday morning at the Summit, they were snaked around the Omni Shoreman waiting to register. During Paul's speech, they chanted his name three times; no other candidate heard their name chanted once. Their campaign signs and buttons were ubiquitous in the halls of the hotel. And yet Paul won't get a lot of credit for his straw poll win. It's not as if he cheated or gamed the system — straw polls are, after all, a reflection of who has the most support at one particular event, and are not meant to be scientific representations of national support — but history has shown that Paul's skill at winning straw polls likely won't translate into success with the broader GOP electorate.

Michele Bachmann: Loser
Her poll numbers are in the dumps, she's reportedly low on funds, and she badly needed some momentum coming out of the Values Voter Summit. Instead, she gave an interminable, repetitive, snoozer of a speech and tied for fourth in the straw poll despite being as conservative as humanly possible on every issue. Bachmann was already flirting with irrelevance in the race, and her Summit performance made that even more clear.

Rick Santorum: Winner
Third place in the straw poll! Not bad! But these were also his people, and nothing Santorum does will ever make him a viable contender for the nomination.

Newt Gingrich: Loser
"The elite media several weeks ago said this is now a two-person race," Gingrich said in his speech on Friday. "Herman and I decided they may be right, but they got the wrong two people." Good line, but a total fantasy. Gingrich took home 3 percent in the straw poll, the worst showing of anyone who actually bothered to show up (Jon Huntsman, who didn't attend the summit, got a big fat zero.) It probably didn't help that Gingrich's speech was essentially an intellectual discussion of judicial supremacy, about as far from a rousing, Cainlike stem-winder as you can get.

Related:
Things You Would See at the Values Voter Summit
The Mormon Discussion That Was Always Going to Happen Is Now Happening
Atheists Crash the Values Voter Summit
Chatting With Two Guys Dressed As Colonial Historical Figures