When attendees at yesterday's Values Voter Summit (a.k.a. PanderFest 2007) weren't staring at the top of Fred Thompson's head
, they were waiting to see what Mitt Romney had to offer. And while it's a challenge for a Mormon candidate who used to be pro-choice to overcome evangelical skepticism, Romney told the faithful -- by one count, there were nearly 3,000 attendees at the event -- exactly what they wanted to hear
"Parenthood is the ultimate career for which all other careers exist."
"The American family is under stress. Is under attack. Ann and I are going to use the bully pulpit to teach Americans that before they have babies, they should get married."
"As president, I will realign government incentives to encourage marriage."
"A federal amendment is the only way we can protect marriage from liberal, unelected judges."
"I will oppose tax payer funding of abortion, oppose partial birth abortion ... ban cloning ... and raise awareness about embryonic adoption, or snow flake babies."
"It will be one strike and you're ours" for pedophiles on the internet -- "long prisons sentences, and if you get out, it means an ankle bracelet for the rest of your life."
"I will ensure that every family has health care -- without new taxes, without Hilarycare, without socialized medicine."
Romney's discliplined; I'll give him that. He quoted C.S. Lewis (dog-whistle politics), and avoided foreign policy (which this audience doesn't emphasize). He spoke of defending "America's religious heritage," while brushing off concerns about Mormonism with a joke about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In short, Romney promised the crowd everything -- which is exactly what they demand.
The underlying motivations here are pretty obvious. Romney wants the foot-soldiers the religious right offers, recognizes the significance of social conservatives in Iowa and South Carolina, and figures that support from the Dobson crowd will make this a two-man race (Romney vs. Giuliani) for the GOP nomination.
Theocons seem to have been slowly coalescing
around Romney of late, and at a minimum, he didn't hurt his chances yesterday.