This weekend, conservatives of all stripes gathered in Washington DC for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The event drew Republican leaders, presidential hopefuls and 11,000 conservative grassroots activists.
Likely presidential contender and former Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty boldly called for the repeal of Obamacare. Pawlenty’s impassioned remarks silenced many of his critics who say he has an energy deficit in speeches.
Many other presenters also emphasized Obamacare repeal including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. John Barrasso, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rep. Kristi Noem. McConnell renewed his commitment to fighting Obamacare in the Senate. A bill to repeal the law succeeded in the House but ultimately failed in the Senate on February 2nd. McConnell’s leadership delivered every single Senate Republican vote in favor of repeal.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who ousted long-serving pro-abortion Senator Russ Feingold in 2010, took the opportunity to call attention to healthcare rationing under Obamacare. As the father of a girl with special medical needs, Johnson is deeply concerned that many of the provisions in the new healthcare law will hinder patients’ ability to get the care they deserve. This echoes concerns raised by the National Right to Life Committee.
Despite calls from some fiscal conservatives for the conference to ignore social issues, many speakers dedicated portions of their remarks to issue of abortion.
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a rising star in the Republican Party who delivered the GOP response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address, linked fiscal and social issues saying both “come from the same moral root.” Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a champion of the right to life movement, remarked, “The social issues are the issues that matter” and that the judiciary cannot create life and has no right to define when human life begins or is allowed to be prematurely ended.
In a touching speech on Thursday, newly elected pro-life Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho, dedicated his speech to his mother who had been pressured to have an abortion. In tears, Labrador affirmed the strength of his mother who made great sacrifices as a single parent to raise him.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour touted his pro-life credentials in his speech on Saturday, commending his state for enacting numerous protective laws for unborn children. Barbour also sat down for an interview with Steven Ertelt, Editor of LifeNews.com, to reaffirm his commitment to the right to life and to clarify previous statements he had made calling for a “truce” on abortion.
“A lot of people think while Republican Governors were attacking fiscal issues we were ignoring social issues. That’s not right,” he said. “My first year as Governor my pro-life agenda was adopted by our Democrat- majority legislature, and Americans United for Life named Mississippi the safest state in America for an unborn child.”
Former Massachusetts Governor and almost certain presidential contender Mitt Romney railed against the pro-abortion policies of the Democratic Senate Majority and the Obama Administration highlighting, “Liberal social policies have failed to protect the unborn.” Another potential presidential contender, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called on President Obama to “sign a bill repealing federal funding for abortion in the United States.”
Business mogul Donald Trump made an unexpected appearance at CPAC on Thursday, fueling speculation of a 2012 presidential run. In his speech, Trump told the audience he is “pro-life,” an admission that may come as a surprise to many people noting his pro-abortion statements in the past. In his first introduction to the conservative base of the Republican Party, acknowledging his pro-life position in such a prominent way was commendable.
Meanwhile, pro-life Indiana Governor Mich Daniels did not touch any of the hot-button social issues such as abortion in a dinner speech he gave at CPAC — after saying last summer social issues should be put on the back burner in a “truce” so the economy can be addressed first.
Finally, a straw poll showed abortion came in as a the 6th most important issue out of 16 issues the poll covered.