Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) strongly stressed his opposition to abortion rights in his speech to prospective voters in the Ames straw poll this evening.

Paul made a play for social conservative voters in the bulk of his speaking slot Saturday afternoon in Ames; the libertarian-minded congressman is gunning for a top-tier finish in the straw poll, where social issues have an emphasized importance.

"There is something that precedes liberty, and that is life," Paul said. "If we are to defend liberty … you have to understand where that liberty, and where that life comes from. It does not come from the government, it comes from our creator."

Paul recalled somewhat graphic stories from his time as an obstetrics-gynecology resident to explain his opposition to abortion rights.

Paul skimped on the more controversial elements of his platform — opposition to the Patriot Act, and the U.S. war in Iraq — until the second half of his speech. Those items, and Paul's support for a return to a gold and silver-based monetary policies received more tepid applause than his words on abortion.

Paul is contending with Rep. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota US ambassador repeated debunked claim that Abedin has 'egregious' ties to Muslim Brotherhood Bachmann considering running for Franken's seat MORE (R-Texas) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) for a finish somewhere in the top three in tonight's straw poll. Each candidate would see a win as an influx of support for their candidacies for president.

"We're delighted with the way things are going," Paul said at the outset of his remarks.