Speaking at the 2011 Values Voter Summit, Texas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry threw red meat to the conservative crowd, touting his pro-life, pro-Christian positions, but his message fizzled with some attendees.
The GOP contender is trying to bolster his slipping poll numbers after a lackluster debate performance. In that effort, Perry emphasized the importance of the family unit and his opposition to abortion.
“We can rebuild our nation on the solid foundation of truth, rather than the shifting sands of moral relativism,” Perry said.
He also offered up such crowd-pleasers as freezing all pending government regulations for the next six months and repeal the “job-killing bureaucratic nightmare.”
“When [liberals] utter phrases like ‘fair share,’ you know they’re playing fast and furious with the truth,” Perry said, alluding to the gun-running scandal that has embroiled the Department of Justice since this summer.
He also took a hard line on border security, foreign policy and military spending.
“There is no homeland security without border security,” Perry said, speaking vehemently against any amnesty for illegal immigrants. (RELATED: Perry addresses conservatives’ concerns about his immigration stance)
“A key part of keeping America safe is keeping Israel safe,” Perry said. “Israel is our friend, and when I’m president America will again stand with our friends.”
He also objected to cuts in military spending as part of a debt reduction deal.
But the Texas governor’s speech, while filled with crowd-pleasers, fell flat with some attendees voting in the conference straw poll this weekend.
Katelynd Mahoney and Nora Sullivan, two straw poll voters, felt that Perry’s speech was pre-packaged and less authentic than that of other presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Meredith Biggs, another straw poll voter, said Perry’s speech “wasn’t as heartfelt” as Santorum’s. Santorum has made little dent in national polls, but his social conservative bona fides are well-known among the Values Voter crowd.
Perry was introduced by Dallas-area Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, who also said he will be endorsing Perry.
“I think for evangelical Christians, there is no other choice than Rick Perry,” Jeffress said. But Jeffress’ endorsement may come with some baggage. After the speech, Jeffress told reporters outside that Mormonism is “a cult.”
He repeatedly called Mormonism a cult, saying this was not a fringe position, but the position of the Southern Baptist Convention. Furthermore, Jeffress said many Christians won’t vote for a Mormon, despite what they may say to pollsters.
“I believe if Mitt Romney is the candidate, Barack Obama will be re-elected president,” he said.
A spokesperson for Perry said the governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult.