All posts from “Election 2012”

May 14, 2012

Obama Campaign Taps Young Adviser, Michael Wear, for Faith Outreach

A 23-year-old executive assistant in the White House faith-based office will head the campaign's faith outreach.

President Obama's re-election campaign has tapped a 23-year-old executive assistant in the White House faith-based office to head up its outreach to religious communities.

Michael R. Wear, who has worked in the White House for the past three and half years, will move to Chicago to become the campaign's Faith Vote director next week, White House officials confirmed on Monday.

"It has been an honor working with Michael Wear to create positive faith-based and nonprofit partnerships to serve people in need," said Joshua DuBois, executive director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Wear was DuBois' executive assistant. (CT profiled then 26-year-old DuBois in 2009)

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Wear was an intern during Obama's 2008 campaign, specializing in outreach to religious groups. He helped arrange candidate Obama's appearance at a presidential forum at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California as well as a meeting between Obama and prominent Christian leaders in Chicago.

Continue reading Obama Campaign Taps Young Adviser, Michael Wear, for Faith Outreach ...

April 16, 2012

Will Evangelicals Vote for a Mormon Candidate?

If past elections predict future results, many evangelicals will likely vote for Mitt Romney.

With Rick Santorum out of the Republican contest for the presidential nomination and Mitt Romney all but the official nominee, the political question of the moment is whether evangelicals will support Romney in the general election.

In the general election, most Republican evangelicals will likely vote for Romney, based on previous elections. Overall, around two-thirds of evangelical voters are expected to vote Romney in the general election. In head to head between Romney and President Obama, 72 percent of evangelicals would vote for Romney, compared to 25 percent who would vote for Obama, according to Pew. Just 21 percent of evangelicals approve of Obama, compared to 51 percent of Americans.

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Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told NPR that evangelical voters would support Romney, particularly when the opponent is President Obama.

“I think that people have to understand that being for Rick Santorum does not necessarily mean you're anti-Romney,” Land said. “And against Barack Obama, it will not be very difficult at all for Mr. Romney to garner the support of both the evangelicals, unless he were to do something catastrophic, like pick a pro-choice running mate, which I don't think he's going to do.”

Land also noted that evangelicals often supported Romney. While most of Rick Santorum's supporters were evangelical, most evangelicals did not vote for Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator would have been doomed without the support of social conservatives. But most evangelicals voted for other candidates, including Romney.

Romney did very well among evangelicals in New England, but received less support in the South. In the battleground states like Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin, Romney received around 40 percent of the evangelical Republican vote.

Gary Bauer, president of American Values, was one of Santorum's supporters who told the New York Times said that he will now support Romney.

“Going to the general election, I will do everything I can for Governor Romney,” Bauer said. “But his campaign has got to make it easy for me to help them, and not make it hard by being tempted to pull back on conservative issues.”

But what may count most is the support of activists who run the phone banks, knock on doors, and give money. Ralph Reed told CNN that Romney may be able to count on votes, but he needs the grassroots support, too.

"Mitt Romney will win the support of evangelicals and conservatives because his opponent is Barack Obama. But he needs the grassroots enthusiasm of activists who are for him, not just against Obama," Reed said.

Mark DeMoss, an evangelical publicist and a senior advisor to the Romney campaign, told the Huffington Post that the campaign has already been contacted by evangelical political leaders and may convene a summit to discuss issues and build support for the general election.

"I'm optimistic that things are coming together nicely behind Mitt Romney and could do so fairly quickly," DeMoss said. Social conservatives will need to convince Romney that he needs their support. Many live in southern states where Romney should be able to win with or without their enthusiastic support. Social conservatives failed to show that they were capable of mobilizing voters in the Republican primary. Just before the South Carolina primary, leaders from political groups with evangelical constituencies met in Texas to coalesce around a candidate, picking Santorum. A week later, most evangelicals in South Carolina voted for Newt Gingrich.

February 8, 2012

Rick Santorum Gets New Life with Social Conservative Boost

The candidate has received mixed support from evangelical voters in previous primaries.

Rick Santorum surprised many by winning all three Republican contests yesterday in Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota, suggesting that none of the Republican candidates have found a way to win consistently across the wide range of caucuses and primaries.

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Santorum showed once again that he can win in states where he can talk face-to-face with social conservatives. He barnstormed through the states, personally meeting with many conservative activists. The strategy worked. Santorum's margin of victory was unexpectedly wide.

The former senator from Pennsylvania won nearly twice the number of the votes in Missouri that Romney received (55 vs. 25 percent). In Minnesota, he received nearly three times the votes as Romney (45 vs. 17 percent). Romney performed better in Colorado than he did in other states, but Santorum still edged him out 40 to 35 percent.

"I don't stand here and claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney," Santorum said. "I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama."

A key to Santorum's victory was an excited, social conservative base willing to go to polls and caucuses, observers suggested. Santorum's evangelical base has proven to be more important in Midwestern states where social conservatives can mobilize voters to attend caucuses.

Continue reading Rick Santorum Gets New Life with Social Conservative Boost...

February 1, 2012

Tracking Newt Gingrich’s Recent Claims

The former House Speaker has made several claims during his campaign that haven't stood up to scrutiny.

Mitt Romney won Tuesday's Florida primary, tying with second-place Newt Gingrich among evangelicals by receiving 37 percent of votes from evangelicals. The votes were a boost for Romney, who received far fewer votes among evangelicals in South Carolina. The Gingrich campaign likely saw the loss coming. In the final days of the Florida campaign, the Gingrich campaign reached out to social conservatives and evangelicals, despite some steep challenges.

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The Gingrich campaign announced on Tuesday that it had "nine new leaders for its Florida Faith Leaders Coalition,” according to Religion Dispatches. When Sarah Posner contacted those on the list of new leaders, she found that three of the pastors were unaware of the the coalition and were not working with the campaign. The Gingrich campaign has not responded to Posner's requests for comment.

The Florida Faith Leaders Coalition came after Gingrich announced a position on life that was a change from the one he held just two months ago. Previously, he suggested that life begins at implantation and favored federally funded stem cell research on embryos created for in vitro fertilization process but never implanted. He told a Baptist church on Sunday that life begins at conception, he opposes all stem cell research and wants to investigate the ethics of in vitro fertilization efforts.

“I believe life begins at conception...If you have in vitro fertilization, you are creating life; therefore, we should look seriously at what the rules should be for clinics that are doing that, because they are creating life,” Gingrich said.

In December, Gingrich told ABC that human life begins at “implantation and successful implantation.” He said he took this position, “because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions.”

This fit with his previous statements on the issue from 2001, when he supported President Bush's policy on embryonic stem cell research. “For many of us, there’s a very, very real distinction between doing something with an unborn child, a fetus that is implanted, and doing something with cells in a fertility clinic that are otherwise going to be destroyed,” Gingrich said at the time.

Gingrich’s change on stem cell research came after media outlets raised questions about his previous marriages. During a debate days before the South Carolina primary, Gingrich refuted any claim that he asked his second wife for an “open marriage.” He rebuked CNN's John King for asking him about an interview his ex-wife did for ABC.

"Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false,” Gingrich said. “We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren't interested because they would like to attack any Republican.”

After the debate, however, several media outlets pressed the campaign for details on who was vouching for the former House Speaker. The Gingrich campaign conceded that it did not provide any “personal friends” to ABC; the only people the campaign offered to ABC were Gingrich's daughters from his first marriage.

January 31, 2012

Tony Campolo: If Evangelicals Vote Gingrich, Count Me Out

"The need for Red Letter Christians to no longer be labeled 'Evangelicals' became abundantly clear" with S.C. vote, he said.

Tony Campolo has long been one of America's most high-profile evangelical Democrats. From his 1976 campaign for Congress, to his service as spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton amid the Lewinsky scandal, to his work on the 2008 Democratic Party platform committee, his party affiliation has never been in doubt. And while others have questioned his evangelical bona fides (he experienced a heresy trial in the mid-'80s), he has always emphasized his identity as both an evangelist and as an evangelical, even as the two words have experienced their share of baggage. Even the name of his organization remains the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.

But EAPE isn't Campolo's only organization. In a post this week, Campolo says his more political group, Red Letter Christians, should stop using the e-word.

"The need for Red Letter Christians to no longer be labeled 'Evangelicals' became abundantly clear this past Saturday following the South Carolina Republican Primary," Campolo wrote, citing exit poll data that evangelicals in the state overwhelmingly voted for Newt Gingrich. "I, for one, am quite willing to join the 'forgive, forget and move on' crowd, but it does make me wonder if Evangelicals are going to sound believable when they say that they tend to vote Republican because of their religious commitments to the family."

Campolo says membership in Red Letter Christians requires traditional evangelical commitments like the authority of Scripture, the doctrines of the Apostle’s Creed, "a personal transforming relationship with the resurrected Christ." But, he says, "we want to be more non-partisan politically than appears to be the case for so many of our South Carolinian Evangelical brothers and sisters."

January 21, 2012

Gingrich Wins South Carolina, Finding Support Among Evangelicals

Romney received as many evangelical votes as Santorum, the candidate backed by many social conservatives.

Newt Gingrich won the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina with the strong support of evangelicals. According to exit polls, two-thirds of voters described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians, 44 percent of which voted Gingrich. Their support turned the first Southern primary from a close race to a runaway victory for Gingrich.

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Gingrich found support from evangelicals despite efforts by evangelical leaders in the social conservative movement to rally behind Rick Santorum. Fearing that social conservatives might split their voting power, a group of 150 met last weekend in an attempt to coalesce behind a single candidate. Evangelicals in South Carolina did come together—just for a different candidate. In fact, only 21 percent of evangelicals backed Santorum, the same percentage that voted for Mitt Romney.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who served as spokesman for the Texas gathering, said on MSNBC tonight that he did not expect those in the group to switch to Gingrich. While Perkins said there was a willingness to forgive Gingrich's less-than-perfect personal life, Gingrich's character was still an issue. “There is concern over whether or not he would be that consistent and stable leader,” Perkins said.

Gingrich won, in part, because he was able to win over both religious conservatives and those for whom religion is less important in the voting booth. Voters who said the religious beliefs of candidates mattered “a great deal” backed both Gingrich (45 percent) and Santorum (32 percent).

Among those for whom religion is only matters “somewhat,” Gingrich’s support remained high but Santorum's dropped to only 15 percent. Gingrich also did well among those who said religion mattered little or not all. He received around a third of these less religiously minded voters, nearly equaling Romney's share (39 percent).

Gingrich did well throughout the state. To win, he needed Romney to do poorly in along the coast and in the more populous counties in the state. He won counties with some of the major metropolitan areas like Columbia and Charleston by narrow margins. In the more conservative highlands, Gingrich was able to easily make up the difference and seal the victory.

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January 20, 2012

Conservatives Lift Up Their Eyes to the Hills for Help in South Carolina

Heading into South Carolina's primary tomorrow, social conservatives are looking to the hills for help--literally. While the entire state is considered conservative, the mountainous and piedmont regions in the northwest are strongholds for religious and social conservatives. If another candidate will beat out frontrunner Mitt Romney, he will likely need to first unite the hill country where evangelicals form the base of the GOP. But even if this region unites around a candidate, there may not be enough votes to defeat Romney.

In recent polls, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were even with around 20 percent of the vote. Another poll shows Gingrich is tied with Romney. Campaigns are spending millions of dollars in ads and both Santorum and Gingrich need a strong showing, if not a win, to continue their bids for the Republican presidential nomination. To win, one of the candidates will need to secure the northern, mountainous region known for its social conservatism.

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The northwest counties bordering North Carolina are what Patchwork Nation labels "evangelical epicenters"--counties where there is a much higher proportion of evangelicals than in other parts of the country. They are consistently Republican strongholds who back candidates with conservative views on social issues.

Furman University political science professor James Guth said that while there are regional differences but that polls are showing smaller differences this election cycle.

"With economic expansion in the Upstate and in-migration, the region no long is quite as distinctive from the Midlands and Low Country as it once was,” Guth told CT. “You have a lot more cosmopolitan business and technical types who will vote Republican, even if they don't get involved in party politics."

Continue reading Conservatives Lift Up Their Eyes to the Hills for Help in South Carolina ...

January 14, 2012

Does a Group of Evangelicals Risk Irrelevance by Backing Santorum?

A group of 150 leaders from Christian conservative organizations met in Texas this weekend. The goal was simple: coalesce around a single candidate who could defeat Mitt Romney (in the primaries) and Barack Obama (in the general election). Going into the meeting, the participants agreed that if they could decide upon a candidate, then they would all support him. After several rounds of voting, Rick Santorum won.

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Backing a single candidate could be a political gamble. Win, and they could become kingmakers. Lose, and they could risk irrelevancy.

For social conservatives, it was a bet worth taking. The Republican primary was turning into a lost opportunity. A majority of primary voters preferred a more conservative candidate to the frontrunner Romney, but social conservatives were splitting their vote among several candidates, allowing Romney to win. The gathering in Texas was a last ditch attempt to bring social conservatives together behind one candidate.

Continue reading Does a Group of Evangelicals Risk Irrelevance by Backing Santorum?...

January 13, 2012

Gingrich Creates Stir with Statements on Race

Newt Gingrich recently created a stir over statements linked to race, receiving criticism for linking food stamps specifically with the African American community. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), came to Gingrich's defense, saying the NAACP was being “a little too sensitive” about the comments. He also added his own analysis on how to get minorities “off the liberal plantation and out of the liberal barrio.”

Gingrich's comments were part of his general campaign theme of “paychecks vs. food stamps.” Since the start of his campaign, Gingrich has repeatedly called President Obama “the finest food stamp president in American history.” The moniker struck some as racist, a charge Gingrich refuted. Last Thursday, however, Gingrich said he would take his message to African Americans directly.

"Now there's no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people would you rather your children have food stamps or paychecks, you wouldn't end up with a majority saying they'd rather have a paycheck,” Gingrich said. “And so I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks, and not be satisfied with food stamps."

Continue reading Gingrich Creates Stir with Statements on Race ...

January 10, 2012

Romney, Santorum Tied for Lead Among Evangelicals in New Hampshire

Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary. His margin of victory may have been smaller than predicted, but there was one surprisingly strong result: Romney tied Rick Santorum for the lead among evangelical voters (around 26 percent each). Romney did twice as well among born-again Christians in the Granite State than he did last week in the Hawkeye State.

The primary voters in New Hampshire are, on average, more moderate than caucus goers in Iowa. New Hampshire has fewer evangelicals and more Catholics and non-religious voters than Iowa. But evangelicals are evangelicals, and Romney seems to have made significant ground among this key part of the Republican coalition.

These results could be an anomaly, but it may also signal a new dynamic to the race. The conventional wisdom was that the social conservative voters were splitting their vote. As candidates like Michele Bachmann dropped out, they would shift their support to another social conservative candidate. In the first test of this, the only difference between the evangelical vote in New Hampshire and Iowa was the vote for Romney. With Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann no-shows in New Hampshire, Romney seems to have picked up the difference in the evangelical vote.

The same pattern holds for other key parts of the GOP base. Romney won the plurality of votes among those who said they were “conservative” in politics. Among those who described themselves as “very conservative” on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, Romney and Santorum tied with 27 percent of the vote.

Ron Paul continued to get his 20 percent of the evangelical vote, as he did in Iowa. Huntsman did worse among evangelicals than those who are not (10 vs. 20 percent). Santorum did far better among born-again Christians. The former Pennsylvania senator did nearly four times as well among evangelicals than other voters (26 vs. 7 percent).

Because evangelicals made up only one-quarter of the primary voters in New Hampshire, their influence is smaller than in Iowa or in this Saturday's primary in South Carolina. Still, if Romney had done as poorly with evangelicals as he did in Iowa, his margin of victory could have slipped into the single digits. This weekend, a strong showing among evangelicals could mean the difference between a win or a loss in South Carolina.


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January 5, 2012

Social Conservatives to Gather to Decide Which Candidate to Back

Four years ago, conservative leaders worried that an upstart candidate with little financial support would split the conservative base and allow a moderate to win the Republican nomination. This year, you might see Rick Santorum as the new Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney as the new John McCain. And conservative leaders are once again facing the possibility that the nomination will go to someone whose main virtue to social conservatives is that he is not a Democrat. But conservative leaders will soon gather together to see if they can back a single candidate—something else they have tried before but failed.

Politico reports that leaders of conservative organizations will meet in Texas to decide on a single candidate to support. The meeting will include James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family), Don Wildmon (founder of American Family Association), and Gary Bauer (founder of American Values). The event will bring together members of the Arlington Group, a group that unites leaders of conservative organizations to discuss, interview, vet, and coalesce behind a single presidential candidate. In 2007, the Arlington Group decided against backing Huckabee, leaning instead toward Fred Thompson, who was seen as being able to mount a national campaign. Of course, Huckabee won the Iowa caucus, Thompson quickly dropped out, and the nomination went to McCain.

Continue reading Social Conservatives to Gather to Decide Which Candidate to Back...

January 4, 2012

Bachmann Retreats as Majority of Evangelicals Pick Santorum in Iowa

Mitt Romney edged out Rick Santorum for first place in the Iowa caucus by just eight votes yesterday. Just a few weeks ago, a strong Santorum finish was an outcome few envisioned, even among people who supported Santorum. But in the final days before the campaign, enough voters coalesced around the former Pennsylvania senator to push him near the front of the nation's first caucus.

In a crowded field, Romney nosed out Santorum with each receiving around 25 percent of the vote. If the Iowa caucus serves any purpose in the American political system, it is to winnow the field of candidates. Michele Bachmann suspended her campaign this morning.

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Going into the caucus, one of the looming questions was whether social conservatives would rally behind a single candidate. Santorum was the candidate they backed. The once long-shot candidate with more time than money invested heavily in the Iowa contest. He now moves onward with little cash on hand and little campaign organization. Still, he beat out both Rick Perry and Bachmann, both of whom once led in national polls. But in the only poll that mattered, Santorum almost received the most votes.

The entrance polls indicate that many evangelicals only recently decided who to support, according to the New York Times.

“Nearly half of the caucusgoers decided whom to support within the last few days. Mr. Santorum was the candidate who benefited the most from these late deciders - a third of them backed him,” Michael Shear reported. “About half of evangelical Christians said they made up their minds within the last few days, while a majority of voters who do not describe themselves that way decided on their vote earlier.”

Continue reading Bachmann Retreats as Majority of Evangelicals Pick Santorum in Iowa...

January 3, 2012

Iowa's Political Landscape: Who Needs to Win Where

How Iowa's political geography looks much like the rest of the country.

Iowan Republicans will gather this evening in the caucus meetings to deliberate and vote, caucuses that remain very difficult to predict. The candidates’ campaigns will be watching not only who is receiving votes but where their votes are cast. As the results pour in, the campaigns will be checking to see if counties that typically support social conservatives are breaking for candidates like Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, or Michele Bachmann.

Iowa's political geography looks mimics much of the country for the GOP. For Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, the key will be to do well in the cities on the east and west sides of the state. The cities are more diverse and moderate than the more rural, conservative midland. Social conservatives, however, will be competing for the base of Christian conservatives located in the southern part of the state.

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In 2008, current GOP frontrunner Romney came in second in Iowa behind Mike Huckabee. Supported by social conservatives, Huckabee won most of the 99 counties in Iowa. In that contest, the better Huckabee polled, the worse Romney fared. There was a divide between “Romney-Republican” counties and the counties where social conservatives reside. Romney did well (though not well enough) four years ago because he won the more populous regions on the eastern and western edges of the state.

This year, Romney's campaign will once again be looking to these counties to see how well he does after campaigning yesterday in an attempt to shore up his base of support. The outcomes from Sioux City, the suburbs of Omaha (Nebraska), Dubuque, the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo will all be critical in determining how big Romney's bounce will be.

Continue reading Iowa's Political Landscape: Who Needs to Win Where...

December 30, 2011

Will Iowa Social Conservatives Unite Behind Santorum?

Libertarians, contrarians, and college students appear to love Ron Paul. Pragmatic-minded Republican voters tend to support so-called establishment candidate Mitt Romney. But social conservatives have yet to rally around a single candidate. In Iowa, however, Rick Santorum is gaining both endorsements and support in the polls just as his rivals' campaigns fade.

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In a campaign season known for the rapid rise and fall of frontrunners, Santorum may prove to be the proverbial tortoise who is rewarded for a slow and steady race. With more time than money, Santorum has spent years crisscrossing the state, meeting with small groups of voters. He has spent little time or money outside the Hawkeye state with the goal to win the ground war in Iowa and use the victory to propel him into the lead nationally.

In a year when other candidates focused on jobs and the economy, the Santorum campaign focused on family values and social issues. He wrote the book on the importance of families in public policy. His campaign touts his personal life as a father of seven home-schooled children. He worked with Iowans to campaign successfully to remove Iowa State Supreme Court justices who overturned the state's marriage law that prohibited same-sex marriage. He put abortion at the front and center of his campaign. On the check-list of issues social conservatives care about, Santorum scores high.

Conservative leaders have given Santorum the thumbs-up. Glenn Beck compared him to George Washington. The Iowa Family Leader, an effective state organization, declined to endorse any candidates in the race, but its president, Bob Vander Plaats, endorsed Santorum, saying that the Pennsylvanian was at home among Iowan social conservatives.

“I believe Rick Santorum comes from us,” Vander Plaats said. “Not to us. He comes from us. He is one of us.”

Until recently, Santorum has faced two (related) challenges. The first was viability. With little money and national name recognition, it was unlikely he could win the nomination, let alone the general election. Second, there were other social conservatives who were seen as having a greater chance of electoral success.

Continue reading Will Iowa Social Conservatives Unite Behind Santorum?...

December 16, 2011

Evangelicals' Complicated Relationship with Romney and Gingrich

The economy remains the most prominent issue ahead of the primary season as social issues play a less prominent role. The most salient personal split has been between Mitt Romney, an executive-turned-politician who is Mormon, and Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House.

While Romney has his base of support, Gingrich has been taking off in the polls. Christian conservatives appear more comfortable with a thrice-married Lutheran-turned-Baptist-turned-Catholic than a Mormon candidate who has been married for over four decades.

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Gingrich's political director in Iowa resigned after less than a week on the job. Craig Bergman's resignation came after the website The Iowa Republican reported that Bergman called Mormonism a cult, just one day before he joined Gingrich's campaign. 

Speaking as part of a focus group, Bergman said, “A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon…There’s a thousand pastors ready to do that.”

A century ago, the Senate debated whether to allow Reed Smoot to represent Utah. Smoot was not a polygamist, but there were still questions raised about the issue. Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania took to the floor of the Senate, glared at his colleagues with less-than-chaste reputations, and delivered one of the best retorts in Senate history.

"As for me,” Penrose said, “I would rather have seated beside me in this chamber a 'polygamist' who doesn't 'polyg-' than a 'monogamist' who doesn't 'monag-'."

Continue reading Evangelicals' Complicated Relationship with Romney and Gingrich...

December 12, 2011

Candidates Tout Faith as Romney Recalls Missionary Life, Obama Attends Church

Some of the presidential candidates are bringing faith into the campaign as the primaries draw closer. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney brought up his missionary work at Saturday night's debate, one of the only times he has referred to his Mormon faith in a public setting during this year's campaign.

“I was able to serve my church overseas, and to, to meet people there that had very difficult circumstances in their life,” he said, in response to a question about how he could understand financial difficulties. “I also spent time in this country, serving as a pastor in my, in my church, and again, having the occasion to work with people that were really struggling. I saw marriages under great stress.”

Since the debate, Romney garnered attention for offering a $10,000 bet to Texas Governor Rick Perry over health care, a gesture that some suggest makes him appear out of touch with American's financial difficulties as well as the teachings of his church on gambling. Some suggest his references to his life as a missionary is a way to humanize the GOP candidate.

“I don’t know about a conscious effort, but I do think more people should know about the more private side of Mitt Romney, including his family,” Romney senior adviser and evangelical public relations agency leader Mark DeMoss told Politico. “I appreciate the fact that he hasn’t talked about his personal life as much, perhaps, as candidates typically do, but also want more people to see him as I have come to know him, so I’d support any effort to reveal more of it in the coming weeks and months.”

Meanwhile, President Obama, who usually visits church on holidays like Christmas and Easter, took his family to St. John's Church across the street from the White House yesterday.

The pastor's sermon on John the Baptist drew a connection to the expectations Americans might have of Obama. Many unfairly expected a messiah that could cure the U.S. of all of its problems, but we're seeing that it's not that easy, Luis Leon told the congregation, according to the pool report.

Obama has also brought up his faith publicly at some recent public events, such as the White House's annual Christmas tree lighting. On Sunday night, he shared a similar message when he referred to Jesus's birth during the annual "Christmas in Washington" concert.

This is the season to celebrate the story of how, more than two thousand years ago, a child was born to two faithful travelers who could find rest only in a stable, among cattle and sheep. He was no ordinary child. He was the manifestation of God’s love. And every year we celebrate His birth because the story of Jesus Christ changed the world. For me, and for millions of Americans, His story has filled our hearts and inspired our lives. It moves us to love one another; to help and serve those less fortunate; to forgive; to draw close to our families; to be grateful for all that has been given to us; to keep faith; and to hold on to an enduring hope in humanity.

Service to others. Compassion to all. Treating others as we wish ourselves to be treated. Those values aren’t just at the center of Christianity; those are values that are shared by all faiths. So tonight let us all rededicate ourselves to each other. And, in that spirit, from my family to yours, happy holidays. Merry Christmas.

Obama's messages that touch on faith often point to the common ground and values between different faiths.

As Newt Gingrich leads in the polls, some media reports are examining the role of faith in his life and in his previous work in the House. As speaker, Gingrich led Congress to enact a major welfare reform law, including a provision allowing faith-based groups to win government contracts to run social service programs, the Huffington Post reports. Such provisions also helped lay the groundwork for the White House's faith-based office, which still exists under Obama's administration.

CNN's Dan Gilgoff reports on an e-mail skirmish between some evangelical leaders, such as the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., and Atlanta pastor Richard Lee related to his marital past. Gingrich spoke with Christianity Today in 2009 after he converted to Catholicism.

November 30, 2011

For Herman Cain, Alleged Affair Could Prove More Damaging than Harassment Claims

Cain campaign says questions about ‘private sexual life’ are out of bounds.

GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain is “reassessing” his candidacy in light of an allegation that he had a 13-year-long extramarital affair. Many social conservatives are reassessing their support for the Cain campaign since Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White told a Fox News affiliate that she was involved in a “very inappropriate situation, relationship” with Cain.

Cain campaign suggested that such an extramarital affair would be private and not a legitimate topic for public scrutiny. The allegation of an extended affair comes on the heels of claims of sexual harassment during Cain's time as president of the National Restaurant Association. Cain has denied both the affair with White and the harassment charges.

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When Cain faced harassment charges, many conservatives came to the candidate's defense. The charges were simply that—allegations. Cain was considered innocent until proven guilty. Newt Gingrich, one of Cain's rivals for the Republican nomination, told NBC on November 11, “Up to now [Cain] seems to have satisfied most people that the [harassment] allegations aren't proven, and that having people who hold press conferences isn't the same as a conviction. So I think people are giving him the benefit of the doubt.”

According to a poll of likely Iowa Republican voters, born-again Christians and cable news watchers became more supportive of Cain after the harassment allegations.

A poll began a week before the November 7 press conference by women claiming harassment allegations against Cain and ran for another week after. While the average voter grew slightly less supportive of Cain after the press conference, those who watched cable news saw Cain as more intelligent, more trustworthy, and a stronger leader after the allegations than they did before the press conference.

“The effect of the scandal on perceptions of Cain depends on where people are getting their information,” said Dave Peterson, interim director of the Harkin Institute of Public Policy. "Those who tune in to the major networks react as one might expect: they view him more negatively. Cable news watchers, in contrast, report more positive assessments, suggesting that they are rallying behind Cain.”

Among likely Republican caucus goers, there was a drop in the support for Cain among Catholics and Mainline Protestants (those who did not say they are “born again”). Among evangelical, born-again voters, however, there was an increase in support for Cain after the harassment claims, according to data Peterson provided to Christianity Today.

Continue reading For Herman Cain, Alleged Affair Could Prove More Damaging than Harassment Claims...

November 22, 2011

Poll: Romney's Mormon Faith Not a General Election Issue for Republican Evangelicals

Republican evangelicals are less likely than other religious voters to support Mitt Romney in the primary elections, but they are more likely vote for him over President Obama in the general election, a new poll suggests.

Among Republican voters, just 8 percent say Romney’s religion makes them less likely to vote for him and 44 percent say it would not make a difference. Among white evangelical Republican voters, however, 15 percent say Romney’s religion would make them less likely to support him.

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Still, voters could find themselves voting for Romney if he wins the GOP nomination, according to the poll released Wednesday from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. About 90 percent of white evangelical Republican voters say they would back Romney over Obama in a general election matchup.

In the general election, those who say they attend religious services at least once
a week were more likely to vote for Romney over Obama (55% to 41%). "Overall, white evangelicals would be among the strongest Romney supporters if he is the GOP nominee challenging Obama next fall," the survey suggests.

White evangelical Protestant voters appear to have mixed opinions about Romney; 46 percent of them expressed favorable views compared to 40 percent of those who suggested unfavorable views. Romney would likely find weakest support among white evangelical Republicans who agree with the Tea Party where just 11 percent of these voters support Romney for the GOP nomination compared to 39 percent who said they would back Herman Cain.

In the poll, conducted November 9-14, Cain led Romney (17% to (26%) among white evangelical Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Romney was running nearly neck-and-neck with Cain among white Catholic Republican voters (26% and 23%). Cain's standing in the polls has dropped since some women accused him of sexually harassing them. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich's numbers have been up recently, and 19 percent of evangelical voters suggested they support the former House speaker.

Continue reading Poll: Romney's Mormon Faith Not a General Election Issue for Republican Evangelicals...

November 18, 2011

Iowa Poll Shows Religious Breakdown in GOP Race

Those who will likely vote in Iowa’s presidential caucuses remain undecided, a new poll suggests. Those that did report an opinion in the poll admitted that they could still be persuaded to change their vote.

Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney are leading the pack among likely caucus goers, according to a poll conducted by Iowa State University, The Gazette, and KCRG of 1,256 of registered Iowa voters. Other candidates received single-digit support in the Hawkeye State.

Herman Cain received the most votes among Catholics (35 percent) and Protestant/born-again (25 percent), but he has very little support among secular voters (10 percent). Secular voters represent a small portion of caucus voters, but they are the most unified with six-in-ten of them backing Ron Paul.

Among religious voters, born-again Protestants are the least supportive of Mitt Romney. Only one-in-eight born-again voters support the former governor of Massachusetts, compared to nearly one-in-four support among other Protestants. Evangelicals are twice as likely to support Rick Perry compared to other religious voters.

Michele Bachmann is also trailing in the poll, partly due to her lack of support (0 percent in the poll) among Catholics. Bachmann's former membership in a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran church in Stillwater, Minnesota, previously drew some attention earlier this year because the Synod suggests that the Catholic Papacy is the Antichrist.

The poll found a high level of fluidity among voters. Dave Peterson of Iowa State said that the race in Iowa is still up for grabs.

“My take away from these results is that voters are still really unsure of whom they will support. Over half of the people are still trying to decide, and another third are merely leaning toward a candidate,” said Peterson, who is interim director of the Harkin Institute of Public Policy. “When asked, people will express a preference for one candidate, but that they will also admit that this is a weak attitude. This is anyone's race at this point.”

Religious voters appear fairly undecided.

“Religious voters are particularly fluid at this time," Peterson said. "While only around 16 percent of all voters say they have made up their mind, the rate is even lower amongst voters of faith. 37 percent of secular voters say that they have made up their mind, but less than 10 percent of voters who identify as either Catholic or Protestant have made a firm choice.”
Iowans cast votes for the GOP nomination on January 3.

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October 28, 2011

Question Raised Again: Should Christians Choose Christian Candidates?

This year's Values Voters Summit reignited the question: Should voters base their decisions on the religion of a candidate? Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, said he supported Rick Perry because he is “a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the wake of the controversy, conservative Christians appear split over the question. Chuck Colson said religion should not be a test for a candidate, while Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said evangelicals should prefer a Christian, all else being equal.

In an interview with CNN, Jeffress said, “I think Mitt Romney's a good, moral man, but I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent - to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney.” This position is not new for Jeffress. In 2008, he made similar statements on Romney and called for Christians to vote only for other Christians.

Texas megachurch pastor Joel Osteen said earlier this week that he considers Mormons to be Christians, continuing the discussion of whether Mormonism is a Christian faith.

FRC's Perkins said he agreed that “all else being equal, a Christian leader is to be preferred over a non-Christian.” In a nationally broadcast radio message, Perkins said, “If voters can consider a candidate's party and that party's platform they can consider a candidate's religion and the tenets of that faith. We should prefer mature, qualified Christians for public office over those who reject the orthodox teachings of Scripture.”

Colson used his radio message to make a counterargument. “I want to say this to every Christian listening to my voice: Let’s stop criticizing candidates for their religious convictions,” Colson said.

Continue reading Question Raised Again: Should Christians Choose Christian Candidates? ...

October 24, 2011

Is Cain Able to Move Past Abortion Controversy? Pat Robertson Says ‘Lay Off’

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain continued to clarify his position on abortion this past weekend. Controversy over Cain’s position began last week when he said he was pro-life in all circumstances but that government should stay out of a woman's decision. With social conservatives asking for clarity, Cain's opponents used the controversty as an opportunity to chip away at Cain's lead in the polls.

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) made the most of Cain controversy during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum on Saturday. Perry emphasized his record on pro-life causes in Texas, giving a thinly veiled attack on Cain.

“Being pro-life is not a matter of campaign convenience; it is a core conviction” Perry said. “It is a liberal canard to say I am personally pro-life, but government should stay out of that decision. If that is your view, you are not pro-life, you are pro-having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too."

After a segment on Cain, Pat Robertson suggested today on The 700 Club that the Republican primary base has to “lay off” forcing their leaders into positions. The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) endorsed Rudy Giuliani in 2008 but has said he will not endorse a candidate this cycle.

“Now whether this did it to Cain I don’t know, but nevertheless, you appeal to the narrow base and they’ll applaud the daylights out of what you’re saying and then you hit the general election and they say ‘no way’ and then the Democrat, whoever it is, is going to just play these statements to the hilt,” he said. “They’ve got to stop this! It’s just so counterproductive!”

Continue reading Is Cain Able to Move Past Abortion Controversy? Pat Robertson Says ‘Lay Off’...

October 21, 2011

Cain Calls His Abortion Position '100% Pro-Life' After Interviews Raise Doubts

Presidential candidate Herman Cain’s interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan Wednesday night prompted questions over his stance on abortion law.

While Cain stated he believed life begins at conception, in cases of rape and incest “it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make.”

He made similar comments last week on the Fox Business Network, telling John Stossel, "I don't think government should make that decision," when asked if there were any cases where abortion should be legal. But in both interviews, Cain reiterated opposition to abortion. "Abortion should not be legal," he told Stossel.

As his comments became one of the day's political talking points, Cain posted a statement on his campaign website calling his public policy views, "100% pro-life. End of story.”

"I understood the thrust of [Morgan's] question to ask whether that I, as president, would simply 'order' people to not seek an abortion," he said. "My answer was focused on the role of the President. The President has no constitutional authority to order any such action by anyone. That was the point I was trying to convey." Cain also said he would appoint judges who "know that the Constitution contains no right to take the life of unborn children," and would oppose government funding of abortion and Planned Parenthood. "I will do everything that a President can do, consistent with his constitutional role, to advance the culture of life," he said.

CT interviewed Cain back in March about his faith and his calling in his presidential aspirations.

October 21, 2011

D.C. Pastor Derrick Harkins to Lead Democrats' Faith Outreach

As President Obama gears up his re-election campaign, the Democratic National Committee has tapped a well-connected Washington pastor to lead the party's religious outreach.

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The Rev. Derrick Harkins is senior pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, one of Washington's oldest historically black churches, where Obama and his family worshipped right before his inauguration.

Harkins is also a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals, a nationwide umbrella group, and Faith in Public Life, a liberal strategy center. Earlier this month, Obama hosted NAE leaders at the White House.

"I have every expectation that people of faith will be a key part of a successful election for Democrats in 2012," Harkins said in a statement on Thursday (Oct. 20). The pastor added that he will attempt to engage religious Americans on immigration reform, Obama's new health care law and the role of religion in public life.

Joshua DuBois, who currently directs the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, ran religious outreach for Obama's 2008 campaign and helped him gain a larger percentage of Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants and evangelicals than Sen. John Kerry's 2004 campaign. As a federally commissioned officer, DuBois now is barred from some campaign activities, including fundraising.

Harkins is stepping into a role the DNC left empty during the 2010 midterm campaign, an absence that some party insiders blamed for large swaths of religious voters turning to the GOP.

Burns Strider, one of those critical voices, praised Harkins' appointment on Thursday.

"We fail in our politics and causes when we fail to dialogue with and build relationships in our faith communities," Strider, who led faith outreach for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, said in a statement. "Derrick has a deep and profound understanding and respect for these communities."

Patrick Gaspard, Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee, said Harkins' hiring "should be a clear sign to everyone that Democrats will be making our case to voters motivated by their faith and values in 2012."

October 19, 2011

GOP Presidential Contenders Face Religious Test Questions at Debate


The question of faith and its influence for determining a presidential candidate came up Tuesday night in a GOP debate that was marked by heated verbal battles.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who are both Roman Catholic, argued that faith says a lot about a candidate.

“It's a legitimate thing to look at as to what the tenets and teachings of that faith are with respect to how you live your life and how you would govern this country,” Santorum said. “With respect to what is the road to salvation, that's a whole different story. That's not applicable to what the role is of being the president or a senator or any other job.”

Gingrich offered a similar view. “None of us should rush in judgment of others in the way in which they approach God,” Gingrich said. “But I think all of us would also agree that there's a very central part of your faith in how you approach public life. And I, frankly, would be really worried if somebody assured me that nothing in their faith would affect their judgments, because then I'd wonder, where's your judgment -- how can you have judgment if you have no faith? And how can I trust you with power if you don't pray?”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry simply said his faith is ingrained. "I can no more remove my faith than I can that I'm the son of a tenant farmer," he said.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as a Mormon, faced public resistance to his religion during his 2008 run for the nomination. The issue has only recently haunted his candidacy this cycle, highlighted again with comments made by a Southern Baptist pastor--and Perry supporter--Robert Jeffress’ that ignited a controversy at a summit hosted by the Family Research Council.

Romney argued for tolerance of religion.

“I don't suggest you distance yourself from your faith any more than I would,” Romney told Perry. “[But] the founders of this country went to great length to make sure -- and even put it in the Constitution -- that we would not choose people who represent us in government based upon their religion, that this would be a nation that recognized and respected other faiths, where there's a plurality of faiths, where there was tolerance for other people and faiths.”

Continue reading GOP Presidential Contenders Face Religious Test Questions at Debate...

September 29, 2011

The Difference Between Michele Bachmann's and Rick Perry’s Liberty University Pitches

An analysis from someone inside the university.

Two presidential contenders took up Liberty University’s standing offer to all 2012 candidates to address students at the school’s thrice-weekly convocations. Michele Bachmann spoke yesterday in Liberty’s 10,000-seat Vines Center, following an appearance by Rick Perry on September 14.   

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Bachmann’s closest aide is reportedly Brett O’Donnell, the former coach of Liberty’s championship debate team, a fact that may have helped her to outshine her contender between the appearances.

Perry seemed less at home than Bachmann in speaking before a college audience, admitting that he had to look up the word “convocation” before coming, and a pun he made on the word fell flat.

Bachmann was introduced by Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., as a “constitutional conservative” committed to “bold reforms” in fighting the “evils of big government,” as well as a “defender of the unborn” and a “deeply committed Christian.” Falwell also noted her role as the first woman elected to Congress in Minnesota.

Not many presidential candidates can claim that behind their success stands a supportive man, but Bachmann’s husband accompanied her to her talk at Liberty. Seated on the stage, his quiet presence offered a different angle on the gender issue raised at a presidential debate this summer when a reporter asked Bachmann if she would submit to her husband if elected.

Bachmann, who won a straw poll at Liberty last April, presented the simple message, “Don’t Settle” and tailored it to the student audience whom she identified as “in the decade when the fundamental decisions of life are made.” She told the students, “You stand to be the first generation in in America’s 235 years that may not do better economically than the previous generation.”

Continue reading The Difference Between Michele Bachmann's and Rick Perry’s Liberty University Pitches...

September 7, 2011

Perry Addresses HPV Vaccine, Death Penalty at Debate

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry squared off over their jobs records at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night. The two frontrunners for the nomination took center stage at the GOP debate that kept most of its focus on economy.

The debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California was also Perry’s debate debut. Perry, who announced his candidacy last month, has edged ahead of Romney this week in nationwide polls. Most questions at the debate, even though posed to the other six candidates, focused on Romney’s and Perry’s positions.

Perry reaffirmed previous statements he’s made on the campaign trail regarding climate change, capital punishment and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Although Perry said last month that his decision to issue an executive order mandating a vaccine against the sexually transmitted HPV was a “mistake,” at the debate he stood by his reasons for the decision. “At the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives,” Perry said, adding that he “probably” should have let the Texas state government legislate the decision rather than ordering it as governor.

Perry said he felt like "a pinata at the party" after receiving criticism for his decision from Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.

When asked about Texas’ death penalty, referring to the 234 executions during Perry’s three terms as governor of the state, Perry paused for applause from the audience. "I think Americans understand justice," Perry said. “In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed."

Continue reading Perry Addresses HPV Vaccine, Death Penalty at Debate ...

September 2, 2011

Rick Perry Talks Politics, Faith at Private Retreat

Evangelical political activists attended a two-day retreat with Texas Governor Rick Perry last weekend, the L.A. Times reports.

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The GOP presidential candidate met with social conservative leaders who grilled Perry on his faith and his politics at a remote ranch west of Austin, Texas. According to the L.A. Times sources, Perry convinced his guests that he was one of them.

The retreat, named “Call to Action,” featured representatives from prominent evangelical and socially conservative political organizations. Participants included Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Richard Land, and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

Participants were asked not to take pictures, record the event, or disclose details of what was said. Sources for the L.A. Times said Perry gave his testimony, which included a recommitment to his faith following his stint in the Air Force. He also promised to stand firm in opposing same-sex marriage and abortion.

Continue reading Rick Perry Talks Politics, Faith at Private Retreat...

August 19, 2011

Ron Paul Preaches a Different Kind of Conservative Gospel

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is more than politician. He's a brand. For the past decade he has represented the libertarian movement within the Republican Party, often putting him at odds with hawks and social conservatives. But to win in Iowa, South Carolina, and other early primary states, Paul needs to win over more than fiscal conservatives. Paul’s campaign has been recently repackaging his candidacy for evangelical voters, preaching a new political gospel that may resonate with many evangelicals: to save America you need to change the culture, not replace the politicians.

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Last week, the Family Research Council's Values Bus tour cruised around Iowa with top Republican contenders including Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty (who dropped out of the race), and Rick Santorum. They spoke to crowds about their social conservative credentials. Paul, however, is not that kind of conservative. Other candidates are social conservatives who want public policy to reflect, defend, and promote morality.

Paul, however, has built his brand as a libertarian who wants government to stay out of regulating pornography, prostitution, drugs, gambling, and other vices that excite social conservatives. He preaches a message of liberty, and that often puts him at odds with Christian conservative groups.

However, Paul’s campaign is now reaching out to evangelicals, focusing on how Paul sees libertarianism as reflecting his Christian faith. Senior Paul strategist Doug Wead told Politico that the campaign is actively campaigning to win over evangelical voters.

“The missing link for us, the outreach to evangelicals, which is so key to South Carolina and the south — we’re filling it,” said Wead.

To do this, Paul is talking about his positions using Biblical allusions and references to doctrine. His speech at this year's Faith and Freedom conference illustrates this approach well:

1) Pass the Abortion Litmus Test. Paul begins his talks to evangelicals with a clear statement on his pro-life position. Paul says that life is the one political value higher than liberty. "As an OB doctor, let me tell you,” Paul said, “life does begin at conception."

2) Agree that American Society is Immoral. Paul echoes the social conservative narrative about the change in American society. The problems in American society began in the 1960's with the sexual revolution, the drug culture, and other changes began a decline in morality. Paul's twist, however, is that this is not a reason to enact new laws. Instead, he says that policy reflects morality, so the focus should be on changing the culture, not trying to change society through government.

3) Give Biblical Justifications for Positions. Paul describes his economic views as “biblical economics.” He references Old Testament admonishments against false weights and measures as a reason to go to the gold standard and to get rid of the Federal Reserve. He talks about government as a false idol. He recounts the story of Saul as a lesson against the temptation to want a king—which is an all-powerful government—who will steal young people for war and overtax the people.

Continue reading Ron Paul Preaches a Different Kind of Conservative Gospel...

August 15, 2011

After Pawlenty's Exit: Who Will Win Over Evangelical Republicans?

Tim Pawlenty ended his campaign for the Republican nomination yesterday, the day after Pawlenty ended a distant third in the Ames Straw Poll. The poll is non-binding, but it is an early test of a candidate's campaign strength. Pawlenty's campaign was well-organized, but it did not have the excitement and dedicated following of Rep. Michele Bachmann or Rep. Ron Paul, each of whom finished far above him in the poll.

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The departure of Pawlenty is unlikely to shake up the GOP field, but it does raise the question about evangelicals in the Republican party. Pawlenty was the type of candidate that mainstream evangelical leaders would like. In June, 45 percent of the National Association of Evangelicals leadership said Pawlenty was their top-pick for the GOP candidacy. The next favorite pick—“no preference,” followed by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Pawlenty has evangelical bona fides. His pastor is Leith Anderson, president of the NAE who officiated Pawlenty's marriage in 1987.

Pawlenty also had the support of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Standing next to Pawlenty at an event at the Iowa State Fair, Huckabee said, “I’m endorsing the principles of people who will stand for a smaller, more efficient government, lower taxes, the sanctity of life. And I wouldn’t be on this stage if this guy didn’t stand for those things.”

Dave Peterson, a political science professor at Iowa State University, told CT that Pawlenty was the only candidate that was acceptable to everyone, but he couldn't inspire enough voters to be a viable candidate.

“Pawlenty's strategy was a decent one in theory,” said Peterson, who was at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday. “His hope was that there would be a deadlock between candidates who were unacceptable to sizable portions of the party. Social conservatives wouldn't trust Romney, more establishment Republicans wouldn't trust Bachman, and lots of folks wouldn't trust Paul.”

Continue reading After Pawlenty's Exit: Who Will Win Over Evangelical Republicans?...

August 12, 2011

Bachmann Asked if She Would be 'Submissive to her Husband'

Was the question at Iowa’s debate last night out-of-bounds?

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In the first Republican presidential debate in Iowa, all of the candidates were asked about their positions on issues and their qualifications, and the topic of marriage came up more than once. Only one candidate, however, was asked about her own marital relationship. The Washington Examiner's Byron York asked Michele Bachmann if she would “be submissive to [her] husband.” York's inquiry has now become its own debate topic: was the question out of bounds?

York framed his question by asking about Bachmann's own statements on submitting to her husband. Bachmann spoke at the Living Word Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, in 2006. Bachmann recounted how she felt God to lead her into law and, eventually, a career in politics.

York asked:

In 2006, when you were running for Congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea, and then you explained: 'But the Lord said, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husband.' As president, would you be submissive to your husband?

Bachmann paused (while many in the audience booed) and then answered:

Thank you for that question, Byron. [laughter in audience] Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10th. I'm in love with him. I'm so proud of him. And both he and I...what submission means to us, if that's what your question is, is respect. I respect my husband. He's a wonderful godly many and a great father. And he respects me as his wife. That's how we operate our marriage. We respect each other. We love each other. And I've been so grateful that we've been able to build a home together. We have five wonderful children and 23 foster children. We've built a business together and a life together, and I'm very proud of him.

Continue reading Bachmann Asked if She Would be 'Submissive to her Husband'...

August 8, 2011

Report: Rick Perry to Enter the GOP Presidential Race

Texas Governor Rick Perry will announce this Saturday his official bid for the Republican nomination for president. Politico reports that  Perry “will remove any doubt about his White House intentions” during an upcoming speech at a South Carolina conservative conference.   

Perry’s decision does not come as a surprise. The past few months were marked with the obvious signs of a presidential run: reports that he was meeting with donors, discussing plans with key Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire, and planning an August speech in South Carolina, an early primary state.

But there were also oblique indications. Perry makes his official bid just days after participating in “The Response,” a prayer event in Houston he helped organize. While Perry’s involvement with the 30,000- strong-event was described by some commentators as a “coming out party” for the Texas governor, he remained tight-lipped on his political intentions during the conference, which he described as “apolitical” and “nondenominational.” His remarks and prayer were more veiled than those of others on stage. In fact, nowhere in his prayer did Perry address “Jesus” or “Christ,” preferring instead the more ecumenical “Lord” and “Father.” [full text of his prayer below]

Either way, Perry enters the race with evangelical-Republican bona fides.

It is not clear, however, whether Perry will draw support away from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), who has received much of her support from grassroots social conservatives. Polls suggest that, despite his stance as a social conservative, evangelical, and southerner, the Texas governor is more likely to pull most of his votes from former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

In a June Rasmussen survey, Romney polled at 33 percent of GOP likely voters. Bachmann was second at 19 percent. A new Rasmussen poll, however, included Perry. Perry received 18 percent support while Romney's support dropped to 22 percent, and Bachmann's numbers remained relatively static at 16 percent. Other polls indicate a similar pattern. On average, Romney is polling at around 19 percent compared to Perry and Bachmann, who are each receiving around 13 percent support among Republican voters.

Continue reading Report: Rick Perry to Enter the GOP Presidential Race ...

July 20, 2011

Co-Founder of Evangelicals for Mitt Wrote Bristol Palin's Memoir

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Few 20-year-olds write memoirs. Fewer still see their books on The New York Times bestsellers list. But Bristol Palin has turned her three years in the national spotlight into a publishing success. Like many public figures, Palin employed the help of a professional writer, in this case Nancy French, a writer and activist who co-founded Evangelicals for Mitt (EFM) in 2005. Today, French and EFM continue to campaign for Mitt Romney among evangelicals, many of whom are wary of supporting a Mormon candidate.

Palin told Christianity Today that French's backing of Mitt Romney was not a problem, even if Palin's mother, Sarah, ran for president, too. "Regardless of who she votes for politically or anything like that we're still going to be really close," Palin said.

French is no stranger to memoir writing. She has two of her own. Her latest, released less than two weeks after the Palin's Not Afraid of Life, is Home and Away, written with her husband about his decision to enlist. Nor is this her first co-authored memoir about someone in the political spotlight: In 2007, she was hired to help Ann Romney write her memoir on life in the Romney family. That project remains an as-yet unpublished manuscript.

French started campaigning for Romney's first try at the GOP nomination through EFM. French, her husband (who is senior legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund), and others formed EFM. Their first target was the 2006 Southern Republican Leadership Conference. The SRLC is a gathering for Bible-belt conservatives, just the type of social conservatives who look sideways at Romney because of his religion and his record as Massachusetts governor. Supporters sported t-shirts that read "Yankee Governor, Southern Values." EFM helped Romney win second place behind Sen. Bill Frist (who was the home-state favorite).

After the SRLC straw poll, French and other founders of EFM were named as vice-chairs of the Romney campaign's National Faith and Values Steering Committee. Later, French was hired by the Romney campaign to help it get on the ballot in Tennessee (French's home state).

Today, EFM remains a small but effective group. It describes itself as a "first and foremost, group of friends." On Facebook, it has around 900 supporters (compared to over one million for the main Romney page). Last year, Romney again won the SRLC presidential straw poll even though Romney skipped the event.

That support could be traced directly back to the work of EFM. Like most straw polls, voting is not free. Voting is open to attendees only, who pay at least $119 to go to the conference. According to The Washington Post, EFM gave away 200 tickets for free to Romney supporters. As a cosponsor of the event, EFM also gave out merchandise and hung banners in the exhibit hall. The time, effort, and over $23,000 in tickets paid off. Even though Romney skipped the conference, he won the straw poll by one vote over Rand Paul. It was a win that The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, and other media took as a sign of Romney's possible support among southern conservatives.

July 14, 2011

Bachmann's Marriage Vow Controversy; Pawlenty, Romney Say 'I Don't'

In the race for the Republican nomination for president, candidates are showing their conservative credentials by signing pledges. There is at least a pledge to not raise taxes, a promise to slash spending to balance the budget, and a pro-life pledge. But the most controversial is the "Marriage Vow Pledge" put forth by the Iowa-based Family Leader. Michele Bachmann, who is leading in the polls in Iowa, was the first to sign it (Rick Santorum is the only other candidate to sign).  It was a decision that has resulted in her entanglement in controversies ranging from questions about race to sexuality.

"The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMiLY" calls on candidates to support marriage both in policy and in their personal lives. Unlike other pledges this campaign season, the “Marriage Vow” avoids ambiguous platitudes. Instead, it lists detailed arguments and policy proposals (complete with references and footnotes). And it may be the specificity of the pledge that pulled Bachmann into so much controversy.

The pledge included a preamble that listed evidence that marriage in America is “in crisis.”  The very first claim made was that marriage among African-Americans was stronger under slavery than it is today.

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President,” the Marriage Vow said.

After the vow was criticized for implying that African-Americans were better off under slavery than they are today, the Family Leader removed the statement from the preamble. The group said the statement was being “misconstrued.”

Julie Summa, a spokeswoman for the Family Leader, told Politico, “It was not meant to be racist or anything. It was just a fact that back in the days of slavery there was usually a husband and a wife.”

Forbes' Osha Gray Davidson interviewed Lorraine Blackman of Indiana University, who is the lead author on the study the Marriage Vow cites as evidence for this statistic.

“That’s just wrong,” Blackman told Davidson. “It is a serious error.”

Blackman explained that while African-American two-parent families were higher in the past, the Marriage Vow was completely false because slaves could not marry.

Bachmann told Fox News' Sean Hannity that the candidate pledge did not include the preamble with the slavery statement and that she opposes slavery.

“I just want to make it absolutely clear, I abhor slavery,” Bachmann said. “Slavery was a terrible part of our nation's history. It is good that we no longer have slavery. And under no circumstances would any child be better off growing up under slavery. But that isn't what I signed. That isn't what I believe.”

The Marriage Vow controversy was not limited to the reference to slavery. There were also questions about the details in the pledge itself. A few of the more controversial policies in the pledge include opposition to same-sex marriage, pornography, “seduction into promiscuity,” keeping women out of military combat, supporting safeguards against adultery in the military, and “extended 'second chance' or 'cooling-off' periods for those seeking a 'quickie divorce.'” 

The pledge also opposes polygamy, in part because the Family Leader believes polygamy would aid the advancement of “Sharia Islam.”  The pledge says that polygamy is “a demographic and strategic means for the advancement of Sharia Islamist misogyny, for attacks upon the rights of women, for the violent persecution of homosexuals, for the undermining of basic human rights, and for general religious and civil intolerance for Jewish, Christian and other non-Islamic faiths under Sharia law.”

Continue reading Bachmann's Marriage Vow Controversy; Pawlenty, Romney Say 'I Don't' ...

June 23, 2011

Pawlenty Leads National Association of Evangelicals Poll

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty came out on top of a survey from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) this month. The NAE recently surveyed its 100-some board members, 45 percent of whom said they would name Pawlenty as the Republican candidate while just 14 percent said the same thing about former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Twenty-two percent were undecided.

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The survey asked, “Assuming Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate, if you were to choose a preferred Republican presidential candidate for 2012, who would you name?” Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee led the 2007 list when both parties were included. A spokesperson for the NAE said that the survey was an open-ended question where respondents entered a name. The full ranking was not available.

Pawlenty, who attends Wooddale Church led by NAE president Leith Anderson, met with the NAE Board of Directors at in 2008 while he was still governor.

“Pawlenty leads the list of Republican candidates for our evangelical leaders which might be expected since he is so often identified as an evangelical," Anderson said in the statement. "Although, like the rest of the nation, there are still many undecided. With more than a year before the national nominating conventions, a lot can change.”

While the press release stated that none of the board members mentioned religion when choosing another candidate, a recent Pew study suggested that evangelicals overall might have a harder time choosing a Mormon candidate.

CT interviewed Pawlenty earlier this year.

June 13, 2011

Bachmann Jumps In, Palin E-mails from God, Perry's Giving to Religious Groups at .5%, Etc.

Rep. Michele Bachmann announced her entry to the race tonight's GOP debate in New Hampshire where social issues played prominent role. During the debate, Bachmann was asked if she would seek to overturn the law in states that have legalized gay marriage.

"I don't see that it's the role of a president to go into states and interfere with their state laws,'' said Bachmann, chair of the Tea Party caucus. She later clarified that she supports something like the Defense of Marriage Act.

"John, I do support a constitutional amendment on marriage between a man and a woman, but I would not be going into the states to overturn their state law,'' she said to CNN's John King who moderated the debate.

All of the candidates except for Herman Cain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul said they believe "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars gays from openly serving in the military should remain in place.

Cain was asked whether Muslims should be asked questions to determine their loyalty to the United States, who responded, "I would ask certain questions. ...[Y]ou have peaceful Muslims and you have militant ones, the ones who are trying to kill us." He said, "I do not believe in Shariah law in American courts."

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, said, "No, I think we recognize that people of all faiths are welcome in this country. We treat people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion."

In other recent election news, Cain told the Weekly Standard that he regrets telling TPM that Bachmann's prayer at Ralph Reed's recent gathering sounded like the "the ultimate pander."

As the media sifts through former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's e-mail, reporters uncovered one where Palin imagines a letter from God to her family about the birth of her son Trig, who was born with Down syndrome.

Many are watching to see if Texas Governor Rick Perry enters the race. A Houston Chronicle article suggests that Perry gave about a half a percent of his income to churches and religious organizations. Perry has invited other governors to a prayer event in early August.

June 13, 2011

Want to Fire Up Conservatives? Cheer On Israel

It is no secret that some of the strongest backers of Israel are Christian conservatives in America, a trend on full display last week at the Faith and Freedom Conference. Among all the issues mentioned by speakers, few, if any, received the amount of enthusiastic support as calls to strengthen American support for Israel.

President Obama said last month that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians should begin along the 1967 borders. Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) called this “a shocking display of betrayal of our greatest and friend and ally Israel.”

“America must do what all previous presidents have done since Harry Truman and stand with Israel. I stand with Israel. … [W]e are sending a message to the world that President Obama speaks for a very tiny minority. He may the president of the United States, but he does not speak for us on the issue of Israel,” Bachmann said.

It was the only statement by the Tea Party leader that moved the conference attendees to their feet in applause.

The reception of the audience was similar for other speakers. Calls to repeal “Obamacare,” lower taxes, restrict abortion, and enshrine traditional marriage were well-received. But Israel—that was an issue that consistently received standing ovations.

GOP candidate Tim Pawlenty spoke for nearly 15 minutes on topics ranging from taxes to terrorism, but the crowd did not appear excited until he expressed his support for Israel.

"We need a President of the United States who stands shoulder to shoulder with our great friend Israel and make sure there is no daylight between the United States and Israel,” Pawlenty said, bringing people to their feet.

The support for Israel hinted at Christian Zionism, with speakers saying that Israel was granted their land by God and should exist as a Jewish state.

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June 3, 2011

Evangelicals: Less Likely to Vote for Gay or Mormon Candidates

Mitt Romney formally announced his bid for the Republican nomination for president yesterday in New Hampshire, but a new poll suggests that the former governor of Massachusetts may still face an uphill climb to secure the votes of evangelicals because of his Mormon faith.

The May 25-30 survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked people how they would vote for presidential candidates with different traits. The survey found that a third of evangelicals (34 percent) said they would be less likely to vote for someone who is Mormon, compared to Mainline Protestants (19 percent) or Catholics (16 percent).

The findings were similar to Pew's 2007 survey when Romney attempted a previous run. With evangelicals making up a major voting bloc in the GOP primaries, particularly in early states like Iowa and South Carolina, a reluctance to vote for a Mormon candidate could hurt Romney. It could also affect fellow Mormon (albeit with different level of commitment) former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman who may still enter the race.

Overall, 25 percent of voters would be less likely to vote for a Mormon. Liberal Democrats were most opposed to a Mormon candidate (41 percent). Pew found that among the voters who were opposed to a Mormon candidate, about two-third of them said there was “no chance” they would support Romney for president.

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Evangelicals were also much more likely to oppose a gay candidate, with nearly two-thirds of them said they would oppose such a candidate. This is over twice the opposition among either Mainline Protestants (30 percent) or Catholics (25 percent).

Unlike opposition to a Mormon candidate, views of a possible homosexual candidate have changed over the past four years. In 2007, nearly half of Americans (46 percent) said they would be a less likely to vote for a homosexual candidate. In this survey, that percentage dropped to just one-third, and all groups showed less opposition to a gay candidate. Evangelicals also dropped (71 to 65 percent), but this was less than the change among other groups. Some of the largest changes in the two surveys came among African Americans (53 to 34 percent), those over 65 years of age (59 to 40 percent), and conservative Republicans (73 to 58 percent).

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June 1, 2011

Gingrich Woos Skeptical Evangelical Voters

His marital past may be too much for some conservative Republicans.

As evangelicals and other social conservatives gather here this weekend (June 3-4) to take the measure of a number of Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich will be conspicuously absent.

Gingrich’s campaign cited scheduling conflicts in not speaking to Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, but his absence will nonetheless prompt questions about his ability to woo politically minded religious voters, and leave some voters’ concerns unanswered.

To be sure, the former House speaker has made the rounds in trying to line up early support, especially in Iowa, where religious conservatives are a major force in the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

He’s paid a courtesy call to San Antonio megachurch pastor John Hagee and also stopped by the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and a gathering of Hispanic evangelicals, always trying to reaffirm his commitment to God and country.

Even so, some political observers expect his marital past -- three marriages, two divorces and an admitted affair with the woman who became his current wife -- to be too much for some conservative voters.

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May 25, 2011

Palin, Pawlenty Stand to Gain with Others Dropping Out

Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich formally threw their hats in the ring for the Republican nomination for the 2012 election while Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels recently bowed out.

Daniels cited family concerns in his decision not to run. "On matters affecting us all, our family constitution gives a veto to the women’s caucus, and there is no override provision,” Daniels said. “Simply put, I find myself caught between two duties. I love my country; I love my family more."

Despite strong poll numbers, Huckabee’s victory in the Iowa caucuses in 2008, and calls for him to run, Huckabee said he could not run without confidence that he was doing it with “God's full blessing.”

"I don't expect everyone to understand this, but I am a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ. And that relationship is far more important to me than any political office. For me, the discussion and decision is not a political one, not a financial one. It's not even a practical one. It's a spiritual one,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee was polling well among GOP voters, particularly evangelicals and social conservatives who are key in early primary states like Iowa and South Carolina. A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press suggests that Sarah Palin would be the most likely to scoop up Huckabee's support, if she ran. In March, Pew asked GOP voters who they wanted in the presidential race. Huckabee received 20 percent support among Republican voters. He did even better (29 percent) among evangelicals in the GOP.

The Pew poll also asked who voters second pick was. By using Huckabee supporters second pick, the poll finds that support for Sarah Palin is the most likely to increase. With Huckabee out of the race, support for Palin could increase from 13 to 19 percent. Support for other candidates also increased but not more than the margin of error; the increases could be due to chance.

Palin's support increases even more among evangelicals. Originally, with Huckabee in the field of candidates, Palin was tied with Mitt Romney for second. Each received around 15 percent among these voters. With Huckabee gone, Palin is the top-choice among evangelicals in the GOP with 25 percent support and Romney's support barely increased. Palin did not receive the same support among mainline Protestants, where Huckabee's support spread evenly across all candidates. Because the number of evangelicals in the poll is small (182), the jump in support for Palin should be taken with some caution.

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May 23, 2011

Obama's Israel Borders Speech Becomes Fodder in GOP Primary

President Obama's speech on the Middle East included a call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that should be negotiated around the 1967 borders. The new position (which may or may not be all that new) was quickly decried as anti-Israel by candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

In his speech, Obama said, “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves and reach their full potential in a sovereign and contiguous state.”

The reaction to the statement was swift among the GOP's presidential hopefuls. Mitt Romney said “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus.” Tim Pawlenty called Obama's statement “a mistaken and very dangerous demand.”

But perhaps the quickest move came from possible nominee Michelle Bachman conducted 150,000 robocalls into Iowa and South Carolina and put out an internet campaign on twitter, Facebook, and ads linking to her website's petition to tell Obama, “You've Betrayed Israel.”

On her Facebook page, Bachmann said, “Today President Barack Obama has again indicated that his policy towards Israel is to blame Israel first…President Obama has initiated a policy which shows contempt for Israel’s concern and safety. In an era dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’ we have seen increased volatility in the Middle East region, and President Obama has only added to the heightened hostility by calling on Israel to return to the 1967 borders. I disagree with President Obama and I stand with our friend Israel 100 percent.”

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