If "Virginia is for Lovers," Gov. Rick Perry hopes he's the object of affection for GOP voters.
Perry stopped in Lynchburg, Va., to talk to students at Liberty University. Liberty University, the nation's largest evangelical university, was founded by Jerry Falwell.
Perry focused on his faith in his 20-minute speech, which was warmly received by a packed arena.
"My faith journey is not the story of someone who turned to God because I wanted to. It was because I had nowhere else to turn," Perry told the crowd.
He also urged students to remember the legacies of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without explicitly invoking his own presidential bid, he cast life's choices as tributes to the military's sacrifice in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Perry briefly touched on politics, urging students to get involved in the process.
"You have the right to insist on change, to tell the people in power that you will not have your inheritance spent or your future mortgaged," Perry said. "Your voice matters. Use it. This country is your country as well. Don't leave it to a bunch of Washington politicians to tell you how to live your life."
Perry didn't touch on his controversial human papillomavirus vaccine mandate from 2007, which has plagued him since it was brought up in the last GOP debate.
Jerry Falwell Jr. told reporters that he has basically forgiven Perry for his 2007 executive order that would have required young girls in Texas to receive a shot to fight the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. The chief lobbyist for the drug company was Perry's former chief of staff.
But Perry hit back at the criticism after a later event in Richmond, Va. He told reporters after a sold-out Republican fundraiser that he handled the issue wrong.
"Did I mishandle this law? I've readily admitted that I did. I should have handled it a different way, that we should have had an opt-in instead of an opt-out," Perry said. "But at the end of the day, I am always going to be erring on the side of life."
While talking to the friendly crowd at the fundraiser in Richmond, Perry alos took a veiled shot at his closest competitor, Mitt Romney.
"We don't need to elect a nominee who is going to blur the lines between this administration and the Republican Party," Perry said, in a veiled shot.
Romney is considered by many Republicans to be more moderate than Perry.
"We need a nominee who draws a distinct and clean contrast, and I will tell you one thing, President Obama and I have a clear contrast in things we believe in," Perry said.
The Associated Press' Bob Lewis contributed to this report.
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