(Photo: Reuters / Molly Riley)
WASHINGTON – GOP politicians urged conservatives at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference to turn their passion for issues such as the budget, pro-life and pro-family measures into a strong resolve to win back the White House. They especially counseled Republicans to resist the urge to split their vote in support of a third party candidate. Instead, conservatives were advised to unify their vote for the GOP nominee once he or she has been named.
At the start of the Faith and Freedom Conference on Friday, Republican and conservative leaders took to the stage to rally attendees behind one cause – winning the 2012 race for the presidency.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann roused the crowd saying, "We're looking forward to winning the triple crown ... holding on the House of Representatives, getting a conservative Senate for the first time in a long time and finally presenting a change of address form to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because if we have anything to say about it, Barack Obama will be a one-term president."
While any number of issues may be driving Americans to vote Republican, Bachmann told the crowd that issues such as Israel, family values and the federal budget are the reasons why Republicans need to secure the presidency.
She says those issues are motivating her as well.
"I will not rest until we repeal Obamacare," proclaimed Bachmann. "Take it to the bank, cash the check; ... it will not stand."
Bachmann was among the first of the possible and definite presidential candidates to address the crowd. Former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman also courted conservatives in the opening session. Tim Pawlenty, former Minnesota governor, and Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, are scheduled to speak in the 7 p.m. session. Bachmann made no mention of a decision to run.
No matter who runs, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour advised the crowd to prepare to fully support the eventual nominee.
He told Republicans it's okay to have a favorite GOP contender in the primary. But once the nominee has been named, Barbour said conservatives must quickly throw their full support behind him or her despite their ideological differences.
"They're going to agree with you a lot more than they’re going to agree with Barack Obama," he reminded.
Barbour told the crowd, "The main thing is keep the main thing the main thing." The main thing, he emphasized, is winning the White House.
The stakes are too high to split the vote over a renegade third party candidate, he warned.
"Obama has worn out two sets of knee pads praying that the Republicans will split their vote," he joked.
While no third party candidate has emerged as of yet, Donald Trump spoke about the possibility of running as a third party candidate in a television interview earlier this week.
Trump publicly announced last month that he would not pursue the presidency because he was not through with the business world. However, the business mogul has recently said that he is reconsidering the race because he is not happy with the GOP field of candidates.
Trump is also scheduled to speak at the 7 p.m. session of the conference.
However, Barbour reminded the crowd how a third party candidate – supposedly a Tea Party candidate – ruined the New York special election.
Republicans in the U.S. House lost the state's 26th congressional district seat to Democrat Kathy Hochul just last month. Independent candidate Jack Davis ran as a Tea Party candidate and rose to high marks in state polls. But groups Freedom Works and the Tea Party Express said he was not a Tea Party candidate. The GOP blames Davis for Republican Jane Corwin's loss.
Acknowledging the controversial incident, Barbour thanked the Tea Party in advance for sticking with Republicans to find a candidate and told them, "This is your party."