WASHINGTON-President Barack Obama has been recently trying to inject values into the upcoming presidential election.
At a Sept. 25 fundraiser in San Jose, Calif., the president said next November presents voters with "a choice about who we are and what we stand for. And whoever wins this next election is going to set the template for this country for a long time to come."
Then again last week, during a dinner for the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign, Obama said that next year's election "is a contest of values," adding, "That's what's at stake here. This is a fundamental debate about who we are as a nation."
In response, Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins, said Friday that this is the first time he has agreed with the current president.
"Mr. President you are right, this is a contest of values," said Perkins Friday morning during the kick-off of his organization's annual Values Voter Summit. "This is a contest between the values that are impoverishing our nation morally and economically, or the values that will inspire and equip our nation to do great things. This is a contest we must win."
At this year's three-day gathering of conservatives at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., speakers like Perkins are trying to reinvigorate the role of social issues ahead of next year's presidential elections. In the face of economic troubles, such as persistent unemployment, many wonder if social issues will take a back seat to fiscal policy during the campaign.
Speakers for this weekend's event include all the Republican presidential candidates except former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a social moderate. The event will provide them a chance to burnish their social conservative credentials before an audience of nearly 3,000.
The first candidate to take the stage was former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a strong social conservative whose place at bottom of the polls all year has given many pundits a reason to declare that social issues will be a non-issue in 2012.
"We are committed to the cause of life and family and American exceptionalism," Santorum told the crowd as his wife and several of his seven children joined him on stage. "I have never put social issues and values issues on the back burner. I've been leading the charge."
Speakers here took turns promising to protect the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one women, and to roll back many of Obama's pro-abortion policies.
"We are fighting to reign in government that has grown far too large and inserted itself into almost every aspect of our lives," said House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor
Both Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner also pledged to repeal Obamacare.
But with the Labor Department announcing Friday that the unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.1 percent, many speakers here, including Boehner, could not resist pushing economic as well as social policy.
"After three years of false hope and broken promises, Americans continue to be left asking the question where are the jobs," Boehner said. "But all we hear from the powers that be here in Washington is more of the same. It's high time we trust the American people to liberate the economy from the shackles of this government."
Still Perkins, trying to reiterate that social issues will have a role to play, sent a not-so-subtle message to any moderate Republicans thinking about a run for office.
"This election is too important to elect a Republican. We need to elect a conservative that will undo the economic and moral and social destruction this administration has unleashed on America," the FRC president said in remark that received some of the loudest applause from the audience. "We don't need politicians who promise to slow down the decline. We need leaders who will be bold and courageous, who will undo the destructive polices of the left."
Listen to a report on Rick Santorum's speech at the Values Voter Summit from the Oct. 15 edition of the radio program The World and Everything in It.