DES MOINES, Iowa – With only 20 days until the Iowa caucuses, four GOP candidates made their pitch to social conservatives tonight at the premiere of an anti-abortion documentary narrated by the former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum addressed the 1200 person crowd before the house lights dimmed for the “The Gift of Life” premiere.
“I do want you to take note,” Huckabee told the crowd. “There were four candidates who cleared their schedules, and made this a priority event.”
Huckabee, who won the 2008 Iowa caucus, has not yet endorsed a candidate – but he took his seat inside the Hoyt Sherman Place theater with the film’s executive director and the race’s current front-runner: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, trailing in Iowa polls, won the biggest applause from the crowd tonight – and aimed his remarks at his competitors.
“I have some problems with some of the folks who running for office these days when they say, ‘I believe life begins at conception.’ That’s like, I say, ‘I believe the sun rises.’” Santorum said, to laughs.
“Why would you say you believe something that’s a fact?” Santorum added. It seemed to be a reference, at least in part, to Gingrich, who spoke minutes earlier in favor of a congressional bill that would define personhood as beginning at conception – though Santorum said later tonight he was talking about a number of his opponents. "I know that there have been several candidates for president who have stated they believe life begins at conception – and as I said, it’s not a belief, its a fact," Santorum told NBC News.
During her remarks, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann attacked the Obama administration for considering – before reversing course – making the “Plan B” morning-after pill available on pharmacy shelves, “where little girls could find it next to bubble gum and next to M&M’s."
"President Obama is so tied up in his reelection that even he knew that was one step too far,” Bachmann said. Governor Rick Perry touted his record defunding Planned Parenthood in Texas, where he said 12 clinics have closed as a result. He called the new film a tactic in the fight against abortion, saying, “imagine the difference you can make not in just one life, but in two.”
Attacks on Gingrich awaited people after the movie premiere. A group billed as "Iowans for Life" paid for fliers on cars that read, "The bottom line: Newt Gingrich is a pro-life fraud."
But as Huckabee pointed out during his short remarks inside the theater: “I think it is significant that all four of the candidates who are present tonight have endorsed life. And that ought to be very important.”