Candidates tout conservative creds in Iowa - Political Hotsheet
Some of the Republican infighting on display in Tuesday’s presidential debate carried over into the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Banquet Saturday as candidates with similar ideological convictions battled to prove themselves the most conservative of them all.
For nearly three hours, contenders for the GOP presidential nomination took the stage to proclaim the depth of their commitment to the pro-life movement, denounce activist judges and call on America to open up drilling and explore natural gas resources across the country.
While all the candidates got a warm reception from the audience of nearly 1,000 Christian activists, it was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who won the night’s biggest applause. He drew repeated cheers with his calls to get rid of White House czars, replace Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke within 30 days, and defund Planned Parenthood and put the money toward adoption services.
“I don’t ask you to be for me,” an earnest Gingrich told the audience. “I ask you to be with me, because I think the scale of change we need is going to take eight hard difficult years.”
As he has done previously during the campaign, Gingrich challenged President Obama to a series of seven, three-hour debates, mirroring the famed confrontations between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in the 1858 Illinois Senate election. “To be fair I would agree that he can use a teleprompter,” Gingrich said of Obama, drawing laughter from the audience. “After all, if you had to spend an entire three hour debate defending Obamacare, wouldn’t you want the help of a teleprompter?”
Discussion of abortion took up much of the evening’s bandwidth as candidates pledged to oppose federal funding of abortion and block the appointment of judges who would continue to uphold the 1972 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal nationwide. Businessman Herman Cain in particular sought to assure the audience of his commitment to pro-life causes.
“From conception, no abortions, no exceptions,” said Cain, who has been dogged all week by a controversy over a statement he made during a CNN interview that suggested abortion was a personal decision that shouldn’t be regulated by the government.
Though Cain was the first speaker of the evening, the issue came up again. Texas Gov. Rick Perry questioned the retired pizza magnate’s anti-abortion credentials. It is “a liberal canard to say I am personally pro-life but government should stay out of the decision,” Perry said during his speech. “If that is your view you are not pro-life. You are having your cake and eating it too.”
After Perry’s remarks, Cain again defended himself, telling reporters that, as president, he would sign a federal ban on abortion if such a bill crossed his desk. “I am pro-life. I have said it, I don’t know how many times,” Cain said.
Santorum also pounced on Cain’s CNN comment, calling his words, “right out of the pro-choice playbook.”
Another crowd-pleaser, the former Pennsylvania senator delivered a fiery speech about his battles against abortion and gay marriage. He ended with a highly personal story he often tells on the campaign trail about his work on the partial-birth abortion ban, which occurred at the same time he and his wife lost a newborn with a birth defect.
“I had committed myself to the Lord; I was doing the brave thing by standing up for life,” Santorum recalled to the crowd, which had gone completely quiet as his voice quavered with emotion. “And this was my answer. You took my son.”