Presidential Candidates Court Social Conservatives at Premiere of Pro-Life Movie in Iowa

In an attempt to court social conservatives who dominate Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus on January 3, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum highlighted their social conservative and pro-life credentials at the premiere of the pro-life movie, The Gift of Life.

The event was organized by Mike Huckabee–who won the Iowa caucus in 2008 but decided not to pursue the presidency this cycle–and Citizens United, which produced the film.

Michele Bachmann said that “life is a seminal issue of our time” and that ObamaCare needed to be repealed to advance the pro-life agenda.

“[Repealing ObamaCare] is so important because in ObamaCare, for the first time in the history of United States, we have taxpayer-funded abortion,” Bachmann said.

She said that, for too long, pro-lifers have been told to stand against the wall in Washington while other issues were taken up. Bachmann continued, saying that if she were elected president, she would put pro-life issues front and center.

Newt Gingrich said that if elected president he would sign an executive order reinstating Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy, which would prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding abortions abroad, and George W. Bush’s “conscience policy” that would forbid anyone from being forced to perform a medical procedure against their religious beliefs. Gingrich also said he would ask Congress to strip Planned Parenthood of all funding and shift the funding to adoption services to “give women the choice of life and not the choice of death.”

“We are engaged in a cultural struggle with a secular elite that believes that life is random and has no moral meaning,” Gingrich said. “As the country became more and more aware of the meaning of Roe v. Wade, they have turned more and more against abortion.”

Gingrich said that fighting for life “goes to the heart of what it means to be an American” because the key to American exceptionalism is that all Americans are endowed with unalienable rights from God.

Rick Perry, trying to establish himself as a combative outsider, said that he had signed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in the state of Texas.

“I can assure you one thing,” Perry said. “If Washington, D.C. is looking for a fight, they found one; I’m not going to back down from this fight as governor and if I have the great honor to be the president of the United States, you can bet I won’t back down as your president either,” Perry said.

Perry praised the movie, The Gift of Life, because he felt it “replaces the acrimony of politics with the testimony of real people…who were faced with the most difficult choices but chose life.” 

Rick Santorum stressed that strong families allowed for limited government because “if family and moral values break down, government gets bigger and bigger.”

“Social issues are central to every issue we deal with in America,” Santorum said. “Unless we get the moral issues right, we will never get the economic and foreign policy issues right.”

Santorum also said that people, even those on his side of the aisle, have called for a truce on social issues, which was a reference to Mitch Daniels’ suggestion that Republicans should focus more on economic rather than social issues, which he felt was allowing the left to “change the will of the American public” on cultural issues.

“It is a surrender, not a truce,” Santorum said. “Under a Santorum presidency, there will be no surrender.”

In an election cycle that has thrown conventional wisdom on its head, Huckabee has said he would not endorse before the Iowa caucus. But courting social conservatives will be essential for Santorum, Perry and Bachmann. These three candidates all are hovering around the 10 percent mark in many Iowa polls, but, among them, it is likely that only one of them will get a ticket out of Iowa and remain viable after the caucus.