Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said President Obama has united the GOP over his proposed rule requiring religious groups to pay for contraceptives in healthcare poliices.

Huckabee facetiously thanked Obama for stirring the issue. "You have done more than any person in the entire GOP field, any candidate, has done to bring this party to unity and energize this party as a result of your attack on religious liberty," he said Friday morning.

"Thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now," he said to cheers at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

He also criticized abortion and tied it into a general degradation of morality in the United States.

Huckabee skipped the conference two years ago, complaining it had been overrun by Ron Paul supporters. "CPAC has has become increasingly libertarian and less Republican over the last years, one of the reasons I didn't go this year," he said then.

But Paul decided to skip the conference this year, and his usual army of supporters was nowhere to be seen, save for a few who came to see his son, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Trump plays 'quick round of golf' with Rand Paul in New Jersey Hillicon Valley: Trump escalates feud with intel critics | Tesla shares fall after troubling Musk interview | House panel considers subpoena for Twitter's Jack Dorsey | Why Turkish citizens are breaking their iPhones MORE (R-Ky.), speak Thursday afternoon.

The conference has featured numerous speakers from the religious right and much talk of Obama's proposed contraceptive rule, from which the administration retreated Friday morning.