GOP Hopefuls Court Values Vote at Faith Conference

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WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential contenders flocked to the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, D.C., trying to win over hundreds of evangelical and Tea Party activists.

With battle lines clearly drawn for 2012, Republican candidates know they must pay attention to social issues in order to win the support of evangelical voters.

"Social issues are the gel that binds us as people. That's the gel that keeps generation after generation together," Utah governor and possible presidential candidate Jon Huntsman told CBN News in a backstage interview.

But the former Utah governor will undoubtedly have to explain his support for civil unions. 

Meanwhile, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney made it clear that he too was aware of the importance of social issues to the GOP's Christian base.

"We're united in our belief in the sanctity of human life. And we're united in our belief in the importance and the significance of marriage between one man and one woman," he said during Friday's gathering.

While the conservative crowd wants to hear candidates affirm their pro-life and traditional marriage credentials, they also wants someone to fight big government.

"We've got a federal government that's out of control, and we have a president who offers us more fluffy rhetoric," former Minnesota Sen. Tim Pawlenty said.

Who's In, Who's Out

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., also attended the conference.

The Tea Party favorite, who has yet to officially enter the 2012 race, dismissed talk by political prognosticators that she would be able to win Iowa - but not the general election.

"Those kinds of things were said about Ronald Reagan… in 1976 and 1980 and he shocked the world then," she told CBN News.

"I think that the American people right now are looking for new and different," she said. "They want a principled reformer and that's one advantage I have."

There have been some cries within the GOP that this current field of candidates is weak. Those worriers are calling for the young, smart and powerful House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to run.

However, the mastermind behind the cost-cutting GOP budget plan made it clear he had no plans to run for president.

"I'm really not doing that. The reason is I really do believe I can make a big difference where I am right now," he told CBN News.

"I'm not really leaving my options open," he added, squelching any possibility that he might change his mind.

"If you're running for president, you've got to be running for president. You've got to be lining it all up," he continued. "You've got to be going to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. I'm not doing any of those things."

But business mogul and reality show host Donald Trump told CBN News he might ride to the rescue if he doesn't like what he sees from the current Republican field.

"The door would be open if the Republicans do a terrible job as they have been doing in choosing the wrong person. The door would absolutely be open," Trump said.

RNC: Obama is 'Beatable'

Whatever Trump decides, one thing is for sure -- Republicans are starting to believe that President Obama is beatable.

"I think he's very beatable. Most Americans don't believe they're better off today than they were three years ago, right?" Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told CBN News.
 
Activists at the Faith and Freedom Coalition have seen a long line of candidates and potential candidates address their key issues.

They want to keep the focus on those issues as the country heads into 2012.

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David Brody

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David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.