updated 10/19/2007 8:39:17 AM ET 2007-10-19T12:39:17

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain's argument to woo restive religious and social conservatives comes down to this: "I have a record that can be trusted." GOP rival Mitt Romney's goes like this: "I am pro-family on every level, from personal to political."

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The two are among the Republican presidential hopefuls speaking to a gathering of "values voters" in Washington. This influential part of the party's base has not coalesced around a Republican candidate, and all the major competitors are auditioning for the part in speeches this weekend.

In remarks prepared for delivery Friday and made available to The Associated Press, McCain and Romney separately challenge the candidacy of Rudy Giuliani, although neither names the former New York mayor who backs abortion rights and gay rights.

"We're not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton," Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, says. Adds McCain, the Arizona senator: "This is not the time to turn our back on the progress we've made on the issues that matter most."

The better conservative?
Both comments served as appeals to religious and social conservatives that they should not support a candidate with moderate-to-liberal views on their core issues.

Despite his left-leaning positions and three marriages, Giuliani has attracted the support of some of those voters by courting the economic and defense wings of the party while arguing that he has the best chance to beat the Democratic front-runner.

But McCain and Romney argue they deserve the support of religious and social conservatives.

"I'll match my record of defending conservative principles against any other candidate in this race," McCain says. "I know you might not always agree with me on every issue, but I hope you know I'm not going to con you."

McCain's trust-me pitch gets to the heart of his woes with this group; it doesn't trust the man who in 2000 called its leaders "agents of intolerance." He also hasn't been a vocal champion of its core issues - even though his voting record is solidly conservative.

"I have been pro-life my entire public career," he says, drawing a contrast with Giuliani, who backs abortion rights, and Romney, who now opposes such rights after once supporting them. "I won't ever change my position to fit the politics of the day." Romney, who ran for governor as a moderate in 2002 but who has shifted to the right as he seeks the presidency, was the target of that remark. Rate candidates' positions

The politics of religion
In his own speech, Romney, whose Mormon faith has made some evangelical Christians wary, emphasizes his three-decade-long marriage to one woman, Ann, as well as his five sons, daughters-in-law and 10 grandchildren.

"Family is the building block of the nation," Romney says.

He talks of "three legs of the Republican stool" - a stronger military, a stronger economy, and stronger families - that unite the three types of conservatives in the party, defense, economic and social.

In a slap at Giuliani, he says: "We won't win the White House with only 2 out of 3 or 1 out of 3."

He also implicitly tries to dismiss the notion that his Mormon religion is repelling Christian conservatives, saying: "I'm pleased that so many people of many faiths have come to endorse my candidacy and my message."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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