The front-runners in Virginia's U.S. Senate race are fighting over who is more focused on the economy, but Del. Bob Marshall is happy to make social issues the cornerstone of his campaign.

Marshall, one of the most staunchly conservative voices in Richmond, last month jumped into the Senate race despite a crowded field of Tea Party Republicans already running to the political right of former Gov. George Allen, the presumptive Republican nominee. But unlike other underdogs, Marshall has a strong statewide following among conservatives because of unflappable pro-life and anti-tax philosophy that nearly helped him win the party's 2010 Senate nomination.

Marshall has long championed the most controversial anti-abortion measures in the General Assembly, including a personhood bill in the current session that would have given a fetus legal and civil rights.

That bill was killed last week and, with an eye on the upcoming primary, Marshall was critical of fellow Republicans who helped defeat it.

"What do you expect when you elect Republicans, not conservatives?" Marshall said.

Other Republicans, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, have ducked divisive social issues and focused on economic issues in recent campaigns. And Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine has been attacking Allen by tying him to the General Assembly's conservative agenda. Yet, Marshall is fully embracing those issues to portray himself as the most principled conservative in the race.

In this legislative session alone, Marshall was accused of attacking Islam when he sought to ban judges from referencing foreign legal codes in their decisions. He tried to end the vaccination of girls for a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer and fought the Obama administration's effort to phase out incandescent light bulbs. He recently filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court likening federal health care reforms to "economic rape."

"I already have a 'can do' record of challenging Tim Kaine and winning in the public arena on major economic and social issues," Marshall said, "and I can do it again."