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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Every year, religious conservatives gather in Washington, D.C. for the annual Values Voters Summit. This year's star attraction was Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. He spoke yesterday. In this election, many Christian conservatives seem to be more against President Obama than they are for Mitt Romney. But many do like Mr. Ryan, who used his speech to vouch for Mr. Romney. There was also talk of this week's violence in the Middle East. NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The Values Voter Summit got under way first thing yesterday morning, with an emcee and a wakeup call about the opportunity at hand.

TONY PERKINS: Well, it's 2012 - finally.

GONYEA: The first formal speech came from Tony Perkins, whose Family Research Council organizes this event.

PERKINS: The Republican delegates met in Tampa for their convention. The delegates for the Democratic convention met in Charlotte. And now, value voters are meeting in Washington, D.C. And you are the value voter delegates, and this is our convention.

GONYEA: There's always talk of foreign policy at the Values Voters Summit, and often it's about the need to support Israel 100 percent. On that topic, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's speech included this dig:

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: President Obama needs to get his priorities straight. What he needs to do is cancel his interview with David Letterman, cancel his meeting with Beyonce, cancel his meeting with Jay-Z, and instead agree to meet with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

GONYEA: The hotel ballroom was packed by late morning for Paul Ryan's speech. First came a carefully calibrated statement about the violence in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. He spoke of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the others who died.

PAUL RYAN: They were there for the most peaceful purposes in service to our country. And today, our country honors their lives and grieves with their families.

GONYEA: Then, moments later, Ryan portrayed the violence as a product of a weak foreign policy.

RYAN: Amid all these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership. In the days ahead, and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose.

GONYEA: For most of the speech, Ryan went after Mr. Obama for pursuing failed economic policies. And because this was an audience of religious conservatives, he delivered a lengthy message accusing of the president of promoting abortion.

RYAN: In the Clinton years, the stated goal was to make abortion safe, legal and rare. But that was a different time and a different president. Now, apparently, the Obama-Biden ticket stands for an absolute, unqualified right to abortion - at any time, under any circumstance and even at taxpayer expense.

GONYEA: That is not the president's position on abortion rights. The Obama campaign responded that Ryan's speech was an over-the-top, dishonest attack. It was last year at this same event that a pastor from Dallas called Romney's religion, Mormonism, a cult. Many in attendance then said they would support Romney, but only as a last resort. Yesterday, Miriam Harris from North Carolina said she first wanted Herman Cain, then Rick Santorum, before backing Romney. When asked if he's conservative enough, she took a long pause before answering.

MIRIAM HARRIS: I'm hesitating. But I'm not worried about it because I think a clear message has been sent to him that he must listen to the conservatives.

GONYEA: Some religious conservatives have complained this election that social issues have taken a back seat to worries about the economy. But even organizers of this summit cite the economy as the top issue. But they quickly add that it's all connected, that you can't have a strong economy if you don't have strong families. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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