Straw Vote: Conservatives Hand Mike Pence the Keys to the Car

VIDEO: Mike Pence For President in 2012?
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Conservatives came out in full force Saturday at the Values Voter Summit to hear the speeches of several rising Conservative stars and cast their ballots for who they think should head the 2012 Republican presidential ticket.

The results of that straw vote might surprise you.

There has been a lot of speculation about Sarah Palin's prospective run. And after Palin decided to headline a GOP fundraiser in the key presidential state of Iowa instead of attending the Values Voter Summit this weekend, the White House seemed sure of it.

"It's normally around this time of year you go to dip your toe in the water," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Friday. "And that's my guess, is that she's going to dip that toe in."

VIDEO: Mike Pence For President in 2012?
Mike Pence For President in 2012?

Palin herself even joked about her possible presidential run, during her speech in Iowa later that night.

"Todd says, 'I guarantee you, if anybody spots you in the tennis shoes, the headline's going to be -- Vanity Fair -- They're going to say, 'Palin in Iowa Decides to Run,'" she gagged to supporters.

But while all the hype has been about Palin and the Tea Partiers, she came in fifth place in Saturday's straw poll, with just 7 percent of the vote.

Instead, the social conservatives at Saturday's event favored Rep. Mike Pence, a seemingly low-profile Congressman from Indiana who -- despite flying under the national radar -- struck a chord with those in attendance by speaking their language.

"I am a Christian, a Conservative and a Republican -- in that order," Pence promised the cheering crowd.

"That's what we're looking for," said attendee Michaele Swiderski. "We definitely want a man that understands our conservative values and that puts them ahead of the party."

"Beautiful values," said attendee Michele Tennery. "He stands for traditional values. That's the primary reason I voted for him."

In addition to casting their votes for who they'd like to head the 2012 Republican presidential tickets, attendees at Saturday's events also listed their top issues on the ballots.

Abortion, government spending and a repeal of President Obama's health care overhaul topped that list. And experts believe that Pence's stances on some of these issues may have also helped propel him to the top of the vote.

"Mike Pence is a fiscal conservative, but more importantly for this conference, a culture conservative," said Jonathan Martin, senior political writer for Politico. "Unapologetic on issues like gay marriage and abortion and that really appeals to this kind of audience, filled with red meat, traditional, pro-family style conservatives."

After closely examining the factors that went into this vote, it might stand to reason that Pence came away with the victory, but there may be a reasons why Palin won the vice presidential Poll, but came in fifth for president.

"There is a view among at least some Conservatives that it's great Sarah Palin is out there," Martin said. "We like her speaking truth to power, but perhaps being president isn't where we actually see her. ... There may be a message of not wanting to give her the keys to the car."

And, while not quite so explicitly, the summit's attendees seemed to be saying much the same thing.

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