Western Conservative Summit delivers pizza guy for prez, strange takes on gay rights

Rick Santorum, right. (Lynda Waddington)

The Western Conservative Summit in Denver over the weekend saw former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum backpedaling mightily on New York’s new marriage equality law, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson rushing to the defense of Michele and Marcus Bachmann on ex-gay therapy, and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain celebrating a straw poll win.

First the straw poll, a popularity contest often based on who actually shows up and speaks. Cain clobbered the collection of conservative presidential candidates by a margin of 48 percent to 13 percent for second-place finisher and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who also delivered a speech during the weekend confab at the downtown Denver Marriott.

Focus on the Family founder and president James Dobson. (Photo/Focus on the Family)
Perry hasn’t officially announced, but in Aspen the weekend before he strongly indicated he was in the race, at one point referring to himself “as the president” before correcting his faux pas with a wink and a nod. The rest of last weekend’s straw poll broke down this way:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Santorum both got 10 percent; U.S. Rep. Bachmann, R-Minn., tallied 9 percent; U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, received 2 percent, and former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty tied with1 percent.

Santorum, cornered by ThinkProgress writer Scott Keyes in Denver, backtracked on comments the week before bitterly opposing New York’s new marriage equality law. “I will oppose it and I will go to New York, if necessary, to help overturn it,” Santorum said on the campaign trail in Iowa.

Then this exchange with Keyes in Denver:

KEYES: Senator, you said you wanted to go to New York after they passed their gay marriage bill and help overturn the law. How are you going to fit that into your campaign?

SANTORUM: I said I “would go” to New York, I didn’t say I’m “going” to New York. It’s not part of what I’m doing right now. Obviously I’m focused on this election and obviously my statements are published in New York. Certainly my attitudes that I have about this is well known and hopefully I’ll continue to make it.

KEYES: Not necessarily intended to be a factual statement that you were going there?

SANTORUM: I think I said I “would go” to New York, I didn’t think I said I’m “going” to New York. I said I “would.” At some point maybe I “will” if the occasion warrants it.

Keyes also interviewed Dobson, who unloaded on a group of activists who a couple of weeks ago showed up at a Bachmann & Associates clinic in Minnesota after Marcus Bachmann was caught on tape saying gays are “barbarians” who need to be “educated” and “disciplined.” The protesters, seeking to draw attention to the Bachmann’s ex-gay therapy aimed at converting homosexuals into heterosexuals, dressed as barbarians and asked to be disciplined. Keyes then had this exchange with Dobson about the matter in Denver:

KEYES: Obviously we saw in the news in the last week or two, Michele Bachmann and her husband’s clinic, they’re business that they run, is being accused of practicing homosexual reparative therapy. They obviously were afraid to really answer that.

DOBSON: Your question really should deal with the attack on Dr. Bachmann by gay activists. Thirty homosexual activists put on the garb of cavemen and came into his clinic with cameras and scared his patients to death and have harassed that man, who has a right to do what he is doing because that’s what he believes. I think it’s unconscionable that people like you guys don’t report it.

Keyes goes on to point out, as per video of the protest, the waiting room was deserted and Bachmann was not at the clinic at the time.

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