WASHINGTON—Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Friday urged social conservatives gathered at the annual Values Voter Summit to support Mitt Romney, warning that another term for President Barack Obama could put the nation at risk "of becoming a poor country."
"Under the current president, we are at risk of becoming a poor country, because he looks to government as the great benefactor in every life," Ryan said.
While Ryan's visit was to stump for Romney, his speech, which mentioned Obama nearly twice as many times as Romney, seemed to focus more on the president than the challenger. Ryan slammed Obama for his support of national abortion access, his administration's mandate on religious organizations to offer contraception as part of employee health care plans and for the state of the economy after four years in office.
At times, Ryan made his criticisms personal.
"'We're all in this together,'" Ryan said, quoting one of Obama's oft-used speech lines. "It has a nice ring. For everyone who loves this country, it is not only true but obvious. Yet how hollow it sounds coming from a politician who has never once lifted a hand to defend the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, the child waiting to be born."
Ryan's remarks were interrupted at least three times by groups of demonstrators who shouted, "Corporations are not people!" and an awkwardly long "What are you going to do about money in politics?" before being swiftly escorted out of the conference room. Meanwhile, conference attendees drowned out the voices of the protesters by chanting "USA! USA!"
The crowd that Ryan addressed—a coalition of conservatives who place an emphasis on social issues like not having the government recognize gay marriage and curtailing abortion access—has remained one of Romney's most elusive bases of support during his campaign. During the Republican primaries, leaders of many of the groups represented at the conference endorsed Romney's challengers, primarily former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. On the same stage where Ryan spoke on Friday, a prominent pastor at last year's gathering called Romney's church "a cult," and the event featured another speaker who has said the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion does not apply to Mormons. Neither of those men is speaking at this year's conference. Romney also spoke at the 2011 gathering and decried the anti-Mormon remarks, but he is not scheduled to address the group again this year.
During a speech at the National Press Club earlier this week, conference organizer Tony Perkins said he supported Romney over Obama, but that enthusiasm for the candidate among social conservatives was still "building."
In his pitch to the crowd on Friday, Ryan made an extra effort to emphasize Romney's character.
"He's solid and trustworthy, faithful and honorable," Ryan said of Romney. "Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best. Not only a fine businessman, he is a fine man, worthy of leading our country, and ready to lead the great turnaround we have spent four years waiting for."
Read Ryan's full remarks here:
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