Five GOP presidential candidates participate in National Right to Life convention

Rick Santorum, right. (Lynda Waddington)

Five Republican presidential contenders took part in a National Right to Life Convention forum Friday in Jacksonville. Only two (Herman Cain and Rick Santorum) appeared in person, while the other three (Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty) literally phoned it in — appearing at the panel via Skype.

Most of the talking points were the same. Down with “ObamaCare” was a common theme, and each candidate made sure to tout his or her “100-percent pro-life record.”

“If we’re going to have a new and better direction for America, we’ll need a new and better president,” said Pawlenty, whose speech, at just under three minutes, was by far the shortest. (Pawlenty was not initially listed as one of the candidates taking part in the forum, and is said to have given short notice before his appearance.)

Each candidate also referenced the Constitution numerous times, a smart move considering the hefty number of tea partiers in the audience. Santorum said that he carries a pocket-sized Constitution with him, taking it out to illustrate his point. “The tea party is a pro-life movement,” Santorum said, “and they always carry their Constitution. I happen to always carry one, too. It’s a good thing to do.”

Santorum said that there’s more to a pro-life candidate than his or her voting record. “A 100-percent pro-life record is fine and good,” he said. “But it’s another thing to be the person at the tip of the sphere and fight the popular culture and fight the media and hold them accountable for the lies they tell about the pro-life movement.”

Santorum made several jabs at the media during his time at the podium, each of which elicited cheers from the audience. “The media can go from labeling you a ‘conservative’ … to an ‘ultra-conservative’” because of one’s views on abortion, he said, jokingly adding that his kids used to think his first name was “Ultra” after reading the local press.

“Lot of folks in the media will say this is a faith-driven movement,” Santorum said. “Thanks be to God, it is.” The former senator also made allusions to both the civil rights and anti-slavery movements, saying they, too, were “faith-driven.”

During his speech, Cain also referenced civil rights, saying that the anti-abortion movement needs to change hearts before it can change minds.

“The civil rights movement … we can learn something from it. America had to work up to ideal of all men are created equal,” said Cain. “That moral crisis had a leader by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. He not only changed the hearts of this nation but the hearts of the world. And he changed it nonviolently. My challenge to you is … fight back. Some reporter is going to say, ‘He’s advocating violence.’ No I’m not. We fight back with our voices and our votes. That’s where our power lies.”

The jabs at the media were nothing, however, compared to those directed at President Obama. Each candidate spoke fiercely against Obama’s health care plan, but perhaps none of those comments were as well receieved as Bachmann’s: “Let me make this clear to all of you in Jacksonville: As president of the United States, I promise to you, I will repeal ObamaCare. You can take that to the bank.”

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