WASHINGTON - After receiving rousing ovations from the evangelical crowd with red-meat lines on repealing "Obamacare," standing for Israel and winning the White House, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann lowered her head, closed her eyes and led a prayer.
"We do pray for our president, we pray for the Supreme Court, we pray for the members of Congress, we pray for those who are in authority, because this is not a political scorecard," said the Minnesota congresswoman. "This is about the very life and future of our nation."
Bachmann was in her element Friday at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, a gathering of Christian conservatives. She and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were two of seven declared and potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates scheduled to speak at the two-day event hosted by Ralph Reed.
Pawlenty's speech focused on fiscal issues as much as social ones. He focused on policy and President Obama's record rather than on his own personal story, a contrast from Bachmann.
"The best sermons aren't preached, they're lived," Pawlenty said. "All the candidates are going to come out here and say, 'I'm for cutting taxes, I'm for reducing spending, I'm for promoting judges who are strict constructionists' ... I hope you'll also ask the question, 'Who's actually done it and not just talked about it?' "
He reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion rights to loud applause.
While Bachmann and Pawlenty come from different wings of the Republican Party, the evangelical vote is one both will court. That's especially true in Iowa, the first caucus state, which has a strong Christian base. Pawlenty declared his candidacy in Des Moines; Bachmann has said she will make an announcement in her birthplace, Waterloo.
Those at the Washington conference said Bachmann is a natural fit for evangelical conservatives, with strong support for traditional marriage and opposition to abortion rights.
"I like what she's accomplished with her own life," said Pat Huntley of Hiawassee, Ga. "I think family is the most important thing."
Bachmann highlighted her role in Minnesota's fight over same-sex marriage, a theme she has taken to Iowa, where voters ousted judges who legalized same-sex marriages last year. When she was in the Minnesota Senate, Bachmann authored a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, something that will be on the state ballot for the first time in 2012.
"This was the height of the controversy, and I was at the tip of the spear on that effort," Bachmann said.
She also ripped into Planned Parenthood, accusing it of "committing crimes and enabling young minor girls," a reference to an undercover video shot by conservative activist Lila Rose.
Pawlenty has made fiscal issues his centerpiece, but he's also reached out to social conservatives. He was raised Catholic and adopted the evangelical faith of his wife after they were married. "We need to stand as a conservative movement for protection and respect for life," Pawlenty said.
Dorothy Flood of the Villages Fla., prefers Bachmann but said both are viable candidates for social conservatives. "Tim, I like him very much," she said. "If she [Bachmann] didn't run and he ran, I probably would vote for him."
Jeremy Herb • 202-408-2723 Twitter: @StribHerb