Presidential Candidates Seek to Impress Values Voters

A large group of Christian conservatives convened this morning at the Hilton Washington for the first day of The Washington Briefing, a values voters-themed weekend hosted by the Family Research Council.

FRC President Tony Perkins opened the session by saying that values voters are not single-issue voters but in fact, “more informed on all of the issues than most people in America.” Perkins’ themes of faith, family and freedom were adopted by the featured speakers who expressed the importance to “prepare for the next generation.”

Every presidential candidate was invited to speak at the convention though no Democrats agreed to appear. All nine Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to speak. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback — rumored to be dropping out of the race — would not confirm the news at this morning’s event.

Brownback spoke primarily on the pro-life movement, lamenting abortion is something “God has lain on our hearts,” wishing it to end. He said, “We must not stop until we win and we will win if we do not stop.”

He spoke of a bill he plans to sponsor with Ted Kennedy to establish a national registry of people willing to adopt children with Down syndrome. Brownback said 90% of children diagnosed with the disease are aborted.

Arizona Senator John McCain’s introduction featured a black and white video of a young McCain in a North Vietnamese POW camp, where he was imprisoned for 5 ½ years under brutal conditions.. Of the Vietnam War he said, “We didn’t lose…in Vietnam on the battlefield, we lost in the streets of Chicago and D.C.”

McCain, who has been known to tussle with conservatives on illegal immigration, campaign finance reform and a number of other issues, said he would not “trade self-respect for a vote.”

He said America is confronting the evils of Islamic terrorism, which is an “act of war against our defining ideals.” Adding, “We will not surrender to the terrorists and we must not surrender to our fears,” said McCain, adding that “if America stands for anything…it is for the freedom to follow our hearts.”

Taking the stage next was Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, who joked about his second-tier status and mentioned that he was the only Republican candidate to accept an invitation to speak at the NAACP convention earlier this year.

Tancredo tagged himself an “unapologetic conservative,” with the highest conservative rating of all candidates from the American Conservative Union and “a lifetime record to prove it.”

“I find myself voting with my Party more now that we are in the minority than when we were in the majority,” Tancredo said. “We are actually fighting for principles now.”

Tancredo, known best for his stance against illegal immigration, said America needs a strong national defense because, “our enemies are psychopaths and our allies are the French.” He called the problem of illegal immigration a “linguistic and cultural tower of Babel” and said Republicans really have to worry now that “Bill Clinton [is] measuring drapes in the Oval Office.”

He added “Everything we are is under attack from jihadism abroad to multi-culturalism here.”

Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson was scheduled last. In what has become a signature move, he entered the stage with his wife Jeri and daughter Hayden who were applauded before they sat for the speech. Speaking on the importance of eliminating judicial activism, Thompson praised Chief Justice John Roberts as “one of the greatest” and said, “we just need more of them.”

He spoke of economic issues, saying we “have to blow the whistle on this irresponsibility” and not leave the next generation bankrupt.

Of Iraq, Thompson said a president must be truthful with the people and recognize we must be resolute, willing and prepared for a long battle. He did not speak with the grandiosity of a polished politician but injected more enthusiasm and hints of genuine emotion than he has previously.

Thompson said, “As President, no legislation will pass my desk that funds or supports this procedure [abortion] without my veto.” He mentioned his adult daughter, who was killed several years ago as well as his younger children (ages 3 and 1). After seeing sonograms of all his children, he said, “My heart now is fully engaged with my head.”

Thompson walked the faith-based line of the convention when he said his first hour in Office, he would “go into the oval office, close the door and pray for the wisdom to know what was right…and the strength to do what is right.” This received the most thunderous applause of the morning speeches.

He also said our “basic rights come from God, not government” and America has “shed more blood for the cause of liberty…than any other country in the world.”

Said Thompson, “When we see local government giving birth control to 11 and 12-year-olds, we know some values in this country are seriously messed up.” Thompson left the stage to the sound of a small group of supporters yelling “Go Fred Go!”

In all, a seemingly good day for all the candidates.