Hours before their debate last night in Orlando, candidates for the Republican nomination for president came to the Faith and Freedom Coalition's rally in a ballroom in the city's sprawling convention complex.
The new conservative coalition is the product of the leadership of Ralph Reed, who, earlier in his political life, was a leader of the Christian Coalition.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota lawmaker who won the Iowa Straw Poll this summer, urged the group not to settle for an "anyone but Obama" choice as their standard bearer next year. She said that this would be an election "where conservatives will not have to settle ... We don't have to sit on the back of the bus in this election," urging the crowd to insist on "a true social conservative."
On a day when the stock market had registered another big loss, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney focused on the economy. "Is there anybody in this room who thinks that President Obama has a clue on how to turn his economy around?" he asked to applause.
Mr. Romney, who earned two degrees at Harvard University, blamed what he characterized as the president's failure to understand the country on "all those years in the Harvard faculty lounge ... Looking to Europe," for solutions. "It's inexcusable that we have a president who doesn't understand how to put Americans back to work," he said, pointing to his own record in the private sector.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum urged the gathering to measure the authenticity of the values that his rivals espouse. He reminded them that Time Magazine had once identified him as one of the most influential leaders of the Evangelical movement even though, he reminded them, he is a Catholic.