Updated: 4:46 p.m.
The Dallas megachurch pastor who introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit and endorsed the Texas governor ahead of time made headlines not just for his fiery language on the stage, but for his comments to reporters that Mormonism — Mitt Romney's faith — was a "cult." Robert Jeffress said "every "born again follower of Christ" should vote for a Christian over a non-Christian for president.
Perry's camp didn't waste much time clipping the comment's wings. They said Perry does not think Mormonism is a cult, and that Perry is "not in the business of judging people," calling that "God's job."
During his introduction of Perry, Jeffress applauded the Texas governor's efforts to curb funding for Planned Parenthood, which he called a "slaughterhouse for the unborn."
WASHINGTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an appeal to social conservative voters at the Family Research Council’s annual Values Voters Summit on Friday, vowing his faith-guided principles and history of job creation in Texas would get a troubled nation back on track.
At an event packed with reliable GOP primary voters — a base Perry needs to woo to improve his poll numbers — his message was heavy on the economy. Punchy and confident, Perry drew applause by laying out the successes in Texas’ job growth and trashing President Barack Obama’s jobs plan.
“It just goes to show you, those blinded by tax and spending and big government ideology will never see the truth,” Perry said. “…Our first order of business to getting America working again is sending our current president to the private sector.”
And he blasted the “Occupy Wall Street” protests across the nation, saying too many Americans want Washington bureaucrats to be their caretakers.
(Watch the video of Perry's remarks at the summit below. Note: C-SPAN lost their signal during the first few minutes of the speech, so it begins in progress.)
“Liberals are now pointing the blame at successful employers under the guise of fairness,” he said.
Criticized by his lead opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, for not offering enough specifics, Perry laid several out in Friday’s speech. He said all pending federal regulations should be frozen for the next six months. He used his own Air Force experience to promise that, as president, he would “never put the military on the chopping block for arbitrary budget cuts.” And he said a key component of keeping America secure is keeping Israel secure.
He also clarified recent comments he made on sending U.S. troops into Mexico, saying the country shouldn’t rule out cooperating with the Mexican government on security operations.
(To see a portion of his speech, click here.)
In his speech, Perry tried to put to rest any criticism that he’s not tough enough of on illegal immigration, saying no one who has entered the country illegally should qualify for amnesty, and listing the hundreds of millions of dollars Texas has spent on border security.
“What we’re seeing south of our border is nothing short of a war,” Perry said. Drug cartels “represent a clear and a present danger to our country. They are peddling poisons to our children.”
Perry’s stances on states’ rights and abortion made him popular among Friday’s Values Voters crowd, where attendees posed for pictures with a life-size cut-out of Ronald Reagan and wielded plastic fetuses to drive home their opposition to abortion. Some attendees donned colonial garb. Perry received his biggest applause when he bragged of signing a state budget that largely defunds Planned Parenthood.
“All human life is made in the image of our creator,” he said, to uproarious cheers.
But his positions on attempting to make the HPV vaccine mandatory for young girls and offering in-state tuition for illegal immigrants have left him a questionable candidate for some ardent Tea Partiers and Christian conservatives at the weekend conference, which includes panels like “How the Welfare State Erodes the Family” and “Saving America’s Children from Pimps and Perverts,” and exhibits on preventing gay marriage and supporting “converted” homosexuals.
All the major GOP presidential candidates, from Rick Santorum and Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich and Romney, are scheduled to speak at the summit.
Perry said every voter is a “values voter” — but that not everyone shares conservative values. He said over the last generation, too many Americans have “emphasized a message of self indulgence” at the expense of personal responsibility. The result? Teen pregnancy and a cycle of incarceration, he said.
“There shouldn’t be any policy out of Washington that interferes with decisions best made by families,” he said.