Indiana Rep. Mike Pence was chosen as the top pick for 2012 presidential candidate among conservatives at the Values Voter Summit in Washington this weekend, receiving 24% of the vote in a straw poll.
Irish American Pence, who spent a year in Ireland, is chairman of the House Republican Conference, edged out the straw polls 2009’s winner, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who received 22%.
Pence is a conservative darling now but he angered some of those same conservatives however, when he declared that he was willing to strike a deal on immigration reform with Democrats in 2008.
The reason he gave was his Irish grandfather. When asked about the reason he stated to The New York Times: "April 11, 1923.”
That was when his Irish grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, a Chicago bus driver, came through Ellis Island.
“We were especially close,” said Pence, who stated that he sees his grandfather’s thrift and hard work in today’s immigrant generation.
Pence also met with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) during that immigration bill battle.
Pence spent the better part of a year working in Ireland when he was younger. He bartended and cut turf in County Clare and almost stayed there.
Despite his Irish Catholic heritage, Pence changed his religion to fundamentalist and has been a strong proponent of traditional church values ever since.
“Mike Pence could either be Speaker of the House or President,” predicted one Washington insider
Both Pence and Huckabee addressed the conference of nearly 2,000 people on Friday. So did Mitt Romney, who finished third in the poll with 13% of the vote, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who received 10%. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin finished fifth with 7% of the vote.
Palin, who was delivering a speech at the Iowa Republican Party’s Reagan Dinner on Friday, did not attend.
723 of those in attendance at the conference voted in the poll. Straw polls such as this one are not necessarily reliable predictors, but Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, whose group organized the summit, said the results are "descriptive of the type of candidate value voters would be looking for."