Social conservatives feel strong momentum at Values Voter Summit

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) railed against the Washington “elites,” activists gathered in the nation’s capital Saturday said they see strong momentum for social conservatism in the November elections.

Gingrich, who may seek a 2012 presidential run, declared that the “establishment is in such a state of shock” in front of hundreds of conservative activists who gathered in Washington for the Family Research Council’s annual Values Voter Summit.

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Gingrich credited Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sarah Palin (R), the former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate, with helping conservative candidates storm the election scene this year.

“I am a great passionate believer in the wisdom of the American people over time. We occasionally make mistakes...2008 was an example," Gingrich told the audience, which gave him several standing ovations during his address.

While government spending has been the crucial point of attack by conservative and Tea Party candidates, summit attendees who spoke with The Hill indicated that conservative values will also play a key role in the November election.

Social conservatism is “going to play a huge role,” said Phyllis Schlafly, the president of the Eagle Forum who gained attention for her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment.

“The fiscal conservatives have got to ask what is the money being spent on and the money is being spent on social issues,” she said in an interview Saturday. “So where is the money being spent that the fiscal conservatives are complaining about? It is being spent to remedy the social issues.”

Democrats recently have called on the GOP to renounce Schlafly for comments she made this summer at a fundraiser about unmarried women giving their overwhelming support for President Obama, according to reports from Talking Points Memo. Schlafly endorsed some 60 Republican candidates this year.

Schlafly said on Saturday that the Tea Party candidates are welcome to the “conservative movement.”

“We need everybody and I hope that everybody joins the battle to elect a conservative Congress this year,” she added.

During his speech, Gingrich said that those currently in power now, "the elites," are "wrong about the values" that define Americans. He called on "everybody who cares about America's future to replace the elites" with "common-sense grass-roots Americans" who understand "the truth."

Filipe Da Costa, an industrial engineer from Ball Ground, Ga., predicted that the GOP momentum this year would be “stronger” than the 1994 Republican win that ultimately allowed Gingrich to become Speaker of the House.

“We’ll take the House and the Senate. The momentum will carry us in the White House,” said Da Costa who was wearing a red “Team Huck” (for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee).

“Values and fiscal responsibility go hand in hand,” he added.


Larry Smith from Newport Beach, Calif., said that he is sensing a “tremendous amount of unhappiness” in the electorate.

“People are concerned right now with the fiscal [problems],” he said. “They will realize that the people that tend to be most conservative fiscally are the ones that are also most conservative socially. If they want to discontinue the trends that they have seen over the last 18 months they better bear that in mind.”

Gingrich made an appeal to the crowd of conservative activists on Saturday to “change history.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), a darling of conservatives who spoke right after Gingrich on Saturday, urged strong voter turnout this November to help elect "a strong conservative leadership."

McDonnell said that the United States is undergoing a "conservative renaissance."

"Democracy is not a spectator sport," McDonnell said, stressing that Americans should vote for people who believe in limited government and help "unleash" the power of entrepreneurs, small businesses and innovators to stimulate the economy.