To "values voters," the problem with Romney's campaign is not enough red meat -- and not enough Paul Ryan.
The mood at the Values Voter Summit, the Family Research Council's annual gathering of social conservatives in Washington, is nervous. A row of metal detectors, manned by very thorough TSA workers, guards the entrance, a reminder that a gunman with a backpack full of Chick-fil-A charged into the organization's lobby and shot a security guard last month. Between that and the fact that the Republican presidential ticket is behind in the polls, the right-wing persecution complex is at a particularly high pitch.
In the seven years the summit has been held, this is the first not to feature Mitt Romney, but he sent in his stead Paul Ryan, the vice-presidential nominee. And that, for this audience, was even better. "In this election, many millions of Americans count themselves as values voters, and I am one of them," Ryan said, to cheers.
Despite his reputation as primarily a fiscal wonk, Ryan is adept at speaking this crowd's language -- far more so than Romney. Ryan's speech segued smoothly from calling for stronger leadership in foreign affairs to a case for less government intervention in the economy to an anti-abortion clarion call. "'We're all in this together' -- it has a nice ring. For everyone who loves this country, it is not only true but obvious," Ryan says. "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."