A bunch of prospective Republican presidential candidates gathered on Saturday at a megachurch in Iowa to pander to the Christian right base. They employed a varied set of strategies to do so. Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz went for the “they’re going to throw us into concentration camps” message:
“The single greatest threat to all of our freedoms is the threat to your religious liberty,” Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, told the crowd in a speech that at times sounded like a church sermon. “Let me be clear tonight: I’m not backing off because what I’m saying is true. We are criminalizing Christianity in this country.”
That theme was predictably popular and reverberated throughout a five-hour-long summit hosted by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition that attracted more than 1,200 Republicans and churchgoers. The event kicked off with a prayer calling on the Lord to “restore this country through godly leadership.”
“You know, in the past month we have seen religious liberty under assault at an unprecedented level,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who announced his White House bid last month. He was also met with repeated bursts of applause.
Rubio and Jindal went for the anti-gay marriage approach:
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — who earlier this month told reporters that he would attend a loved one’s same-sex wedding despite his opposition to gay marriage — stressed his support for defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
“In this whole debate about the definition of marriage, I remind everyone that marriage as an institution existed before even government itself — that the institution of marriage as one man and one woman existed before our laws existed,” Rubio said, one of his most enthusiastic applause lines that night.
Backstage, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he too would attend a same-sex wedding but held firm to the traditional definition.
And Walker and Perry opted for the “I was a poor sinner before the lord saved me” gambit:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker brought along his favorite devotional and read a passage, then talked about how prayer helped him get through a nasty recall election. Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, spoke about losing his faith despite his Methodist upbringing and then finding it again after he left the Air Force.
“I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in my life. And God helped me,” Perry said. “And I realized at that moment I was going to spend the rest of my life doing God’s work.”
And Carly Fiorina delivered this baffling bit of ignorance:
While several politicians criticized President Obama for negotiating with Iran, former corporate chief executive Carly Fiorina said that such talks should immediately end until Iran agrees to “full and unfettered inspections.”
Uh, Carly…the deal includes 24/7 access not only to all Iranian nuclear facilities but to their uranium mines and to any factories that could make parts for centrifuges. If that isn’t “full and unfettered inspections,” what more would you suggest? What else is even possible? I won’t be waiting for an answer, of course.