Leaders of national groups that oppose abortion and same-sex marriage are traveling the state, asking Iowans to re-insert those issues in the presidential campaign debate.

Economic issues have been dominating the campaign conversation, but Connie Mackey of the Family Research Council’s “Family Faith Freedom Fund” says “millions of Americans” are looking for Republican presidential candidates who will affirm their “values.” 

“The race is clearly wide open,” Mackey says. “Value voters will be closely watching this week’s events as they determine which of the candidates are willing to do what it takes, once elected, to restore fiscal sanity, protect marriage, safeguard religious liberty and protect the rights of the unborn.”

The “Values Voter Bus Tour” plans stops in 22 cities and kicked off the trek this morning with a news conference in Des Moines. Marilyn Musgrave is a spokeswoman for the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee that supports candidates who oppose abortion. 

“I just want to say to everyone here today: Pro-lifers have not gone away. We have the economy on our minds, but we also have our core values that are so precious to us on our mind,” Musgrave said during today’s news conference. “And we know right now we have one of the most pro-abortion presidents in history.”

Bob Vander Plaats, of the Iowa-based group known as The Family Leader, said values matter to Iowa voters.

“Today you’ll hear a lot: It’s all about the economy. It’s all about the economy. I’d say today it’s all about bold leadership…You cannot erode the family and think you’re going to have a strong economy,” Vander Plaats said. “We need a bold leader that will stand for human life, that will stand for God’s design for marriage and family.”

Troy Price of “One Iowa” — a group that supports same-sex marriage — said the candidates should be focused on fiscal rather than social issues.

“To suggest that at a time like this when you see the economy in the situation that it’s in, when you see the stock market taking dips day after day, it is about jobs. It is about the economy,” Price said during an interview after today’s news conference. “It’s not about social issues that do nothing but divide our country.”

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty joined the “Values Voter Bus Tour” stop in Des Moines this morning. Another candidate — Rick Santorum — will join the tour’s stop in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday morning. 

Audio of “Values Voter Bus Tour” news conference.