Note: Read WND’s in-depth coverage of last night’s GOP presidential debate

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in the moments following the Values Voter Debate Sept. 17, 2007, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (WND photo)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the Values Voter Debate straw poll last night in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after his performance against six other Republican presidential candidates.

With 63 percent, Huckabee received more votes than all the other candidates combined. No-show candidates – the top four, according to national surveys – were included in the poll.

The vote included 340 delegates who were hand-selected by 40 of the country’s social activists and opinion-makers.

“We won huge,” said Huckabee after the votes were tallied. “I’m pleased, and proud, and honored to have this historic endorsement from America ‘s leading social conservatives who believe, as I do, in the core values which define American culture and life. This overwhelming vote affirms that conservatives are coalescing around one candidate and that candidate is me. Together, we will prevail.”

In attendance last night, along with Huckabee, were Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, former ambassador Alan Keyes, businessman John Cox and Reps. Ron Paul of Texas, Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Duncan Hunter of California.

Missing were former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Huckabee had 219 votes while Paul finished a distant second with 44. Brownback had 18 and Thompson 15.

Janet Folger, president of Faith2Action and a member of the Values Voter Debate committee, said the “biggest losers” last night were the no-show candidates.

Debate panelist Rabbi Aryeh Spero of the Jewish Action Alliance asked, “How can we expect these no-show candidates to take on Osama bin Laden and other world leaders when they’re afraid to show up and answer questions from Phyllis Schlafly?”

Another debate panel member, Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, added, “If you care about our votes, you need to care about our values enough to show up.”

Debate panel member Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, called it the most important straw poll yet.

“Unlike other straw polls where candidates have bussed in supporters or paid for their tickets, 40 national leaders chose hundreds of delegates who accurately represent America’s largest voting block,” he said.

Host Committee members included Schlafly, Staver, Scarborough, Folger, Paul Weyrich and Don Wildmon.

Weyrich, a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, is considered one of the fathers of the “religious right” movement. Wildmon is the founder and chairman of the American Family Association.

Folger said Values Voter Guide DVD’s and video clips of last night’s event will be available on the Values Voter Debate website.

Note: Read Janet Folger’s related column in WND today.

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