Sandwiched between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knew he wouldn't be the star.
"I was just hoping somebody might actually recognize me with all these presidential candidates up here," the Kentucky Republican said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority Conference.
Much of McConnell's speech was familiar to Senate observers — though perhaps less so to the audience of social conservatives assembled in a Northwest Washington ballroom. And he received a predictably polite (though not totally enthusiastic) reception.
It was probably best for McConnell that he spoke Friday morning between Christie and Bush, rather than after a real favorite among movement conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Cruz spoke to the group at a forum Thursday.
The most applause probably came from a scheduling announcement. McConnell committed to bring up for a vote a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy. The Senate measure was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and a version of the 20-week abortion ban has already passed the House.
"At least I get to decide, instead of that other fellow, Harry Reid," McConnell said, drawing applause. "The Senate is now in a place where the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act ... a bill that in the past in the Senate couldn't even get a hearing, I promise you will be getting a vote."
"It's about time we begin the process of bringing America into the ranks of ... most other civilized countries by protecting unborn children at 20 weeks in the womb," McConnell said.
Much of McConnell's speech served as a word of caution for the activist audience, however. He was highlighting the limits on the ability of House and Senate Republicans to enact a conservative agenda with President Barack Obama still in office. Referring to himself as a "student of history," McConnell declared Obama to be more liberal than the likes of Woodrow Wilson or Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"Barack Obama is the most liberal president in American history, bar none," McConnell told the crowd, adding that in his view, any of the presidential hopefuls addressing the Faith and Freedom audience this weekend would be better than the Democrat currently in the White House.
"There are limits on what we can achieve, but we can stop a lot of bad things. We have and we will," said McConnell, before offering thanks for the efforts of those in the audience to make him the majority leader through the election of a new crop of freshman Republicans in 2014.
"They're really, really smart," McConnell said of the newcomers. "This is an outstanding group of Americans who share the agenda that we all believe in."
As for the Senate Democrats, McConnell said they were in "disarray," repeating a line about voting for the troops on the defense authorization bill Thursday before voting against limiting debate on taking up the appropriations bill that funds the Pentagon. That was part of a Democratic strategy to get the GOP to the table for broader budget negotiations well ahead of September 30, but McConnell made clear again Friday that he fully intends a political offensive on that issue.
See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.