This issue continues to pop up -- will the conservatives shy away from social/religious/moral issues or stick to governance and limited government principles? Liberal media outlets will make sure the issue is not forgotten. At the Conservative forum in Iowa today, Gingrich and Bachmann rallied on social issues and values, indicating that some conservatives are going to take the easy way out with platitudes rather than do the hard, intelligent work of explicating why conservatives have been criticized for attempting to legislate morality and assuring independents that morals will not be legislated and coerced.
Republican candidates cannot ignore how they've been framed by their opposition, because independent votes are critical. When Gingrich and Bachmann take the arrogant approach to stir up the crowd by saying values are primary or that social conservatism and fiscal conservativism are the same thing, they miss the opportunity to clarify the issue.
Of course values are important, but if a handful of Christian fundamentalists, for instance, are expecting their values to be front and center in a political campaign, this just feeds the fear in independents that the Republican Party is still set on using State power to instill certain religious values that many potential Republican voters don't share. The values in question should be political values when speaking about governance -- the 2012 election campaign is not a Baptist Revival, it's a campaign to elect government officials. If the Republican Party values limited government , a free market, individual rights and freedom, then they need to express and uphold these values, then allow people to deal with their own souls and issues of morality. Using State power to coerce people according to religious values is anti-limited government, anti-individual rights and anti-freedom.
If the candidates are moral people who practice their values in their private and public lives, the public will see this, so the candidates don't need to preach and testify -- actions speak louder than words.