Des Moines Register: ‘Values’ bus kicks off Iowa tour

A bus tour of national groups opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage kicked off Tuesday in Des Moines before a large media contingent but few of the “values voters” whom organizers are hoping to reach.

This article first appeared online at on August 9, 2011.

‘Values’ bus kicks off Iowa tour

Jason Noble

A bus tour of national groups opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage kicked off Tuesday in Des Moines before a large media contingent but few of the “values voters” whom organizers are hoping to reach.

The “Values Voter Bus Tour” will roll through 22 Iowa cities over four days during one of the busiest weeks so far in the presidential caucus season. Along the way, it will link up with several presidential candidates as they reach out to voters ahead of Saturday’s Iowa straw poll, an early test of their popularity and organization.

The objective, organizers said, is to show that socially conservative issues have resonance in the presidential race, and must be considered alongside more immediate economic concerns.

“Pro-lifers have not gone away,” said Marilyn Musgrave, a project director for the Susan B. Anthony List and a former U.S. representative from Colorado. “We have the economy on our minds, but we also have our core values that are so precious to us on our minds.”

Those core values focus on opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage and on support for two-parent households, Musgrave and others said.

Among the speakers in Des Moines was Republican presidential candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who spoke for about four minutes.

Pawlenty highlighted his record as a state lawmaker and governor on restricting abortion, defining marriage as a bond between a man and a woman and appointing judges who demonstrated “restraint and humility.”

Those positions, he said, are broadly understood and supported, and represent a winning political mission.

“We will ultimately win this cause and continue the culture of life in this country and advance the culture of life in this country by winning over the hearts and minds of people,” Pawlenty said.

Republican candidates Rick Santorum and Thaddeus McCotter are scheduled to appear at tour stops today. Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, will appear in Cedar Rapids, while McCotter, a congressman from Michigan, will meet up with the tour in Okoboji. Officials have said candidate and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann also will appear at a tour event.

In Des Moines, speakers addressed a crowd of a few dozen media and assorted campaign staff.

Just a handful of actual voters showed up for the mid-morning event at the Iowa Capitol.

That lack of in-person support for the tour’s kick-off may indicate that social issues like abortion and gay marriage are not top priorities for voters right now, said Troy Price, executive director of One Iowa, a gay-rights group.

“The press outnumbers the crowd here four to one,” Price said. “I’m just not quite sure how effective they’re going to be.”

Also appearing in Des Moines were Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Bob Vander Plaats, a former gubernatorial candidate who now runs the conservative Family Leader organization.

Reynolds, a Republican, voiced official support for the groups’ aims on behalf of herself and Gov. Terry Branstad and called on straw poll voters to keep social issues in mind as they cast their ballots on Saturday.

“As you head to Ames this weekend … raise to the forefront the importance of family values, faith and life and defending the constitution,” she said.

Organizers of the bus tour include the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group that supports female candidates; the Faith Family Freedom Fund, a campaign committee associated with the conservative Family Research Council; and the National Organization for Marriage. Iowa Right to Life, the state-level anti-abortion group, also is participating in the tour.

From Des Moines, the tour was scheduled to stop today in Oskaloosa, Washington, Muscatine, Davenport and Iowa City.

Coinciding with the bus tour will be radio ads sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List calling on straw poll voters to support only candidates who have signed the organization’s “pro-life leadership pledge.”

Bachmann, McCotter, Pawlenty, Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul have all signed the pledge.

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