When vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan popped into a conference call with evangelical voters on Sunday night, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin offered a sweeping assessment of Barack Obama’s leadership: The president is a danger to the Judeo-Christian values that form Western civilization.
It was the kind of language that some evangelicals used at packed rallies and in political mailings during the election season. But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign often treaded such ground gingerly—highlighting Gov. Romney’s Mormon faith at times and saying little about President Obama’s relationship to Christian values.
Two nights before election results were set to begin rolling in, Rep. Ryan—a Catholic—shed some of those inhibitions when talking about Obama’s leadership: “It’s a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty, and compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us such an exceptional nation in the first place.”
Ryan made the comments near the end of a grueling day that sent the candidate to five different states. The Faith and Freedom Coalition—founded by evangelical Ralph Reed—hosted the Sunday evening call.
Though he was likely preaching to a choir of supporters, Ryan reminded callers about Obama’s mandate that Catholic and other Christian institutions provide birth control in their healthcare coverage: “We should not have to sue the federal government to keep our constitutional freedoms.” He also warned that such restrictions could grow worse if Obama is reelected: “It just puts a chill down my spine.”
Meanwhile, during Romney’s stump speeches on Sunday, the former Massachusetts governor did not emphasize social issues, but he grew sharp in his tone, saying that Obama “cared more about a liberal agenda than he did about repairing the economy.”
Ryan spoke mostly about religious liberty during his conference call, but he also responded to questions about his own faith. The lifelong Catholic said his daily prayers and the prayers of others give him strength: “That’s how the Lord sustains me.”
And on the eve of one of the biggest nights of his life, Ryan said his local priest in Janesville, Wis., had emailed him with this message: “Just have no fear.”