Nearly 2,000 social and political conservatives have assembled in Washington this weekend for the "Values Voter Summit." It's an annual event, organized by groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.
This year, many of the participants are feeling under siege, with Democrats in control of both Congress and the White House. But they're promising a religious and political revival in 2010.
Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana, was one of the first speakers at the summit, which runs through Sunday, offering such workshops as "Global Warming Hysteria" and "Countering the Homosexual Agenda in Public Schools."
The participants' own agendas vary, but they're united in their suspicion of just about everything that's happening in Washington, from propping up the auto industry to remaking health care.
"The American people will not stand for government-run insurance that uses taxpayer money to fund abortions in this country," Pence told the crowd.
Self-described "values voters" are a key constituency for any aspiring Republican politician. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are speaking this weekend. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was invited but didn't show.
Arkansas governor turned TV host Mike Huckabee was on hand Friday. He was the darling of religious conservatives in last year's GOP primaries. Even though they were outmaneuvered then, he told the crowd, there's no reason to give up.
"I think sometimes we may look around and think those of us who are conservative and particularly who are believers, may feel outnumbered, outgunned, outfinanced," Huckabee said. "But I think we need to remember that our power has never been in our pocketbooks but in our Creator."
More than one speaker today mentioned the Biblical story of David and Goliath as a way of inspiring this audience not to feel powerless in the face of what they see as big, Godless government. The message worked for Renee Parker, an architect from nearby Virginia.
"Actually, I feel like Goliath. Because I think there is a Goliath out there in independent conservatives. And I think they've awakened the sleeping Goliath."
This is Parker's first time at a Values Voter Summit. She said she came because she feels frightened by what she sees as a slide to the left since President Obama took office. Like nearly everyone in the audience, Parker is white. But she bristles at former President Jimmy Carter's suggestion that such criticism is racially motivated.
"I didn't support Obama because I didn't think he had the experience," Parker said. "But I was very happy that a man of color was elected. So I was willing to give him a chance. But I don't like what I'm seeing. It's scary to me. I have three children. I want to give them the same country that my parents gave to me."
Kim Simac stands nearby, wearing a shirt emblazoned with a quote from Ronald Reagan: "If we ever forget we're One Nation Under God," it says, "we'll be One Nation Gone Under." Simac and a group of like-minded voters from northern Wisconsin had the shirts made for their trip here.
"We started a group called Northwoods Patriots," Simac said. "And our slogan is standing up for faith, family, and country."
Simac trains horses for a living and writes patriotic children's books — some of which are on display here. Like many of those at the summit, she's enjoying the company.
"I just feel you gain a lot of strength knowing there are this many people out there networking, trying to combat what's happening to our country right now," she said.
Simac says she represents what she calls the "moral majority" of average Americans, a majority she says is about to wake up and start swinging again.
When they do, she says, everybody had better watch out.