Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) stirred up a Saturday morning crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference by asserting that Republicans work against President Reagan’s image of a shining city on a hill if they don’t press social issues.

“We will not get the pillars of American exceptionalism back together unless we have the full spectrum,” King said.

In the House, the congressman noted, he’s happy to stand there with people who espouse fiscal conservatism, but invites them to come stand with him on “the full spectrum of constitutional conservativism… life, marriage, rule of law.”

In his 2012 re-election contest, warding off a challenge from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s wife Christie, King stressed “I stood on life and I stood on marriage … I’m still standing.”

King came into the conference with a bit of conservative folk-hero status after finding himself a target of Karl Rove’s Conservative Victory Project in regards to the Iowa Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin (D).

He cautioned against comprehensive immigration reform and estimated that the actual number of illegal immigrants in the country is closer to 20 million instead of the oft-floated number of 11 million or 12 million.

“And two out of every three are Democrats and they know it,” King said. “…I’m not buying it. I remember 1986.”

If we’re going to build Reagan’s shining city on a hill, he said, “it’s at a higher elevation.”

Conservatives need to go bat on “all pillars,” the congressman added, “not just the politically expedient ones.”