Santorum to Values Voter Summit: 'Quit being scared'
© Greg Nash

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told a crowd of religious conservatives to fight harder on the issues most important to them, knocking the GOP establishment for turning tail on gay marriage, abortion and a muscular foreign policy.

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"I have never been involved in a race, where you play defense on an issue and yet you put points on the board. And yet that's what we do," he told the crowd to some grunts of assent. "If you look at the current conservative movement, the Republican Party, there are issues we haven't even lost yet, and we're talking about giving up."

Santorum went on in tones that moved from imploring to lecturing, asking the activist crowd to do more to fight on issues some in the GOP establishment have been ducking. Even at the Values Voter Summit, a safe haven for religious conservative activists, there has been much less mention of gay marriage than in past years.

"Do something," he said. "Quit being scared and start being activists and making things happen in America."

Santorum received standing ovations at the beginning and end of his speech, but for much of it, the room was dead silent, a contrast to the frenzied reception Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzWith no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder Trump defends several unsubstantiated claims in interview Budowsky: Trump’s war against truth MORE's (R-Texas) received earlier in the day. Even Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulHealthcare fight pits Trump against Club for Growth GOP rep: Trump could be 'one-term president' if healthcare bill passes Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief urges Congress to approve budget boost | Senate fight over NATO addition MORE (R-Ky.), who many in the socially conservative crowd view with some skepticism on social issues, got more applause.

Santorum spent much of his speech warning of the threat of Islamic terrorism — and pointing out how long he's been sounding the alarm bells of threats from the Middle East.

"Yes, there is a very big clash going on right now in the Middle East against a civilization that for 1300 years ... has been in conflict with our civilization," Santorum said, slamming President Obama for recent comments that there is no "clash of civilizations."

He also sought to contrast his long record with newcomers like Cruz and Paul.

"This is my 9th speech here at the Values Voters summit. That's because there's only been nine," he said to laughs at the beginning of his speech.

He later tweaked Paul and libertarians on foreign policy.

"Our Constitution provides for limited government. It does not necessarily provide for uniform small government," he said, arguing for a robust military.