All posts from “Republican Party”

May 4, 2012

Why Mitt Romney’s Upcoming Liberty Commencement Address Fits the University’s Past Speakers

Romney will continue a long line of speakers who find common ground with Liberty on political issues.

Mitt Romney will speak at next week’s commencement at Liberty University, an addresss that follows the university’s history of politically conservative speakers. For Romney, the speech is an outreach to conservative Christians who have been wary of him, both for his political positions and his Mormon faith. For Liberty, Romney will continue a long line of speakers who find common ground with Liberty on conservative politics, not religious affiliation.

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The Liberty speech is one of many events Romney has planned that will allow him to shore up support with conservatives while beginning to sound themes for the general election. Two weeks ago, Romney spoke at the National Rifle Association meeting. While Romney tipped his hat to second amendment rights activists, he spent most of the speech on taxes and the economy.

Romney is likely to follow a similar strategy at Liberty, one that commencement speakers John McCain (2006) and George Bush (1990) used to avoid hot button social issues to focus on foreign policy and other issues.

Continue reading Why Mitt Romney’s Upcoming Liberty Commencement Address Fits the University’s Past Speakers...

April 10, 2012

Despite Pulling Much Evangelical Support, Santorum Jumps Out of Presidential Race

Evangelical leaders and voters rallied behind the candidate, but the former Pennsylvania senator dropped out today.

Rick Santorum announced today that he will no longer seek the Republican nomination for the presidency. The former Pennsylvania senator told campaign supporters in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that it was time to end his bid for the White House, a departure that all but finalizes Romney as the Republican presidential nominee.

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“We made a decision over the weekend that, while this presidential race for us is over — for me — and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting,” Santorum said.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, was one of the evangelical leaders who met in January to support Santorum (Land, however, does not endorse candidates). On Sunday, Land said on CBS's “Face the Nation” that Santorum should consider stepping aside.

“As his friend,” Land said, “I would say to him you know, you ought to seriously consider leaving the race now. In eight years he’ll be three years younger than Romney is now.”

Santorum was expected to stay on at least through the Pennsylvania primary, but recent events changed this decision. Politically, Santorum faced a greater threat in his home state than anticipated. A loss in the Keystone State would not only seal his fate as a candidate, it would impinge on his future prospects in politics.

Personally, Santorum faced the challenge of having a child with a serious medical condition. Santorum's daughter, Bella, was hospitalized due to pneumonia, which was potentially life-threatening because Bella suffers from Trisomy 18 (a rare genetic disorder). Bella was released from the hospital Monday evening, and Rick Santorum cancelled campaign events to be with his family.

Continue reading Despite Pulling Much Evangelical Support, Santorum Jumps Out of Presidential Race...

April 3, 2012

Republican Congressional Leaders Get Cold Feet on Marriage

Leaders are more focused on the economy ahead of the election.

Republican leaders in the House are avoiding legislation dealing with traditional marriage, Congressional Quarterly (CQ) and Politico report. The economy—not social issues—will be the focus of the congressional agenda.

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At the beginning of March, House conservatives introduced the Marriage Protection Act, which would kick all marriage cases from federal courts to states. A second bill would amend the Constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Both pieces of legislation are now off the table.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) cosponsored the federal marriage amendment, but he acknowledged that the issue is not front-and-center on the agenda. “That’s not something we’re focused on now,” Gohmert told Politico.

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March 1, 2012

Senate Rejects Conscience Clause Change to Contraception Rule

The Republican-led bill would have inserted a broad religious exemption.

The Senate on Thursday defeated a Republican-led bid to insert a broad religious exemption into a federal mandate that requires most employers and health insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage.

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The largely party-line vote was 51-48 in favor of tabling an amendment that Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., had offered to a federal transportation bill.

Blunt and other Republicans had argued that the measure would protect the religious liberty of institutions such as Catholic charities and hospitals that object to contraception on moral grounds.

"It's not just the Catholic Church," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said during the floor debate on Thursday. "It's a moral and religious issue that should not be interfered with by the federal government."

In February, the Obama administration proposed a revision whereby insurers, not religious institutions, could provide contraception services to employees.

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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 21, 2012

Spotlight Turns to Gingrich's Marital Past Before South Carolina Primary

Historically, South Carolina is the make or break contest for the Republican Party. Since 1980, the winner of the state’s primary has become the GOP nominee. With such high stakes, candidates went all in by spending heavily on ads and letting loose any and all attacks they can use on their opponents. The result has been surprise after surprise after surprise in the final days of the contest.

Thursday morning, Rick Perry dropped out of the race, shocking seasoned political observers by endorsing Newt Gingrich. Perry was not predicted to do well in South Carolina, but he was expected to stay in the race until the results came in Saturday.

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Perry's announcement came after last weekend’s gathering of 150 evangelical leaders who met to decide on a single candidate to back in the GOP contest, choosing to back Santorum. On Thursday, James Dobson, who was a key figure in the meeting, formally endorsed Santorum. In a statement, Dobson said that his key concern was state of families and marriage.

"Of all the Republican candidates who are vying for the presidency, former Sen. Santorum is the one who has spoken passionately in every debate about this concern. He has pleaded with the nation and its leaders to come to the aid of marriages, parents, and their children. What a refreshing message,” Dobson said. "While there are other GOP candidates who are worthy of our support, Sen. Santorum is the man of the hour.”

Dobson, who endorsed as a private individual, founded Focus on the Family but now leads his new ministry Family Talk.

According to those at the social conservative confab last weekend, one of the reasons for Dobson favoring Santorum over Gingrich was the marital history of the candidates.

On Thursday, Gingrich's past was once again a news topic because ABC aired an interview with Gingrich's second wife, Marianne Gingrich. During the interview, she said that Newt asked her for an “open marriage” when he was confronted about his affair with his now-wife Callista Gingrich. Gingrich quickly denied the charge but declined to elaborate on personal matters. In the past, he has spoken in general terms about his extramarital affairs and three marriages and about how he has sought God's forgiveness.

Continue reading Spotlight Turns to Gingrich's Marital Past Before South Carolina Primary...

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."

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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...

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 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 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 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 28, 2011

Herman Cain Apologizes to Muslim Americans

Republican primary candidate Herman Cain released a statement of apology on his recent remarks on Muslims and Islam. Most recently, the GOP hopeful said he supported the banning of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Cain apologized yesterday after meeting with Muslim leaders from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling, Virginia.

"While I stand by my opposition to the interference of shariah law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim Americans and their friends," Cain said. "I am truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it. Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully."

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Cain has made several comments about Muslims and Islam during the campaign, but he recently attracted national attention for saying that communities should be allowed to prohibit mosques. Cain said on Fox News Sunday that Muslims do not have a constitutional right to worship. According to Cain, Islam is not just a religion--it is “both religion and of set of laws, Sharia law.”

Cain also said he would be wary of allowing a Muslim in his cabinet because he or she might be a terrorist.

“If you at my career, I have never discriminated against anybody because of their religion, their sex, or origin, or anything like that,” Cain said. “I'm simply saying I owe it to the American people to be cautious because terrorists are trying to kill us. And so, yes, I'm going to err on the side of caution, rather than on the side of carelessness.”

Cain's recent comments are not his first on Muslims. In March, Cain told Christianity Today that he resented Muslims who try to convert people in America, a “Judeo-Christian nation.”

And so I push back and reject them trying to convert the rest of us. And based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them. Now, I know that there are some peaceful Muslims who don't go around preaching or practicing that. Well, unfortunately, we can't sit back and tolerate the radical ones simply because we know that there are some of them who don't believe in that aspect of the Muslim religion. So their role is to be allowed to practice their religion freely, just like we should be allowed to practice our religion freely, and not try to convert the rest of us.

Continue reading Herman Cain Apologizes to Muslim Americans...

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).

Continue reading Evangelicals: Less Likely to Vote for Gay or Mormon Candidates...

February 12, 2011

CPAC’s Social Conservative Presence: Existent, But Less Prominent

WASHINGTON --Social conservative groups may not be picking a fight with other factions of the conservative movement at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but they will still have to continue to work hard to ensure their issues remain on the forefront of conservatives’ minds in the conservative movement and as the 2012 election nears.

Tom Minnery, vice president of government and public policy at CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family and co-sponsor of CPAC, thinks their presence has made the conference stronger than it would have been in their absence. As a co-sponsor, CitizenLink helped choose the forum topics and speakers—and snagged a prime spot in the exhibit hall.

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Despite the buzz that CPAC has all pushed social conservative issues aside because of their inclusion of GOProud, a gay rights group, Minnery disagrees: “Not only are there good panels here that represent social conservative values but the speakers—like Rep. Michele Bachmann—do too.”
Of the potential presidential candidates who have spoken thus far, most focused on issues related to China, spending, and criticizing President Obama. Bachmann gave the opening keynote and lambasted Obama for “socialist” tendencies; she did encourage social and fiscal conservatives to work together to elect conservative candidates in the next election. “We cannot shun each other for 2012,” she said.

Though he received cheers to a reference to protecting the unborn in his Friday morning address, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney mostly criticized Obama for his failure to remedy the economic crisis. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, won the straw poll vote with 30 percent of the vote while Romney came in second with 23 percent. Other potential candidates came in around 4 percent, though former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee did not attend.

In an afternoon speech, Minnesota’s former Gov. Tim Pawlenty fired up the crowd discussing everything from the debt ceiling to his compelling personal story to spending. Though he refrained from mentioning marriage or life issues, he encouraged conservatives to “turn towards God, not away from him.”

Minnery also dispels the notion that the strong presence of the Tea Party here—a movement largely concerned with smaller government and lower taxes—conflicts with CitizenLink’s purpose to promote traditional marriage, preserve religious liberty, and promote the sanctity of life. Though he never went so far as to say Focus on the Family and the Tea Party would join forces to elect fiscal and social conservatives in 2012, he finds their strong pro-life stance encouraging. (An April 2010 Gallup poll found 65% of Tea Partiers identify themselves as pro-life).

What about the presence of GOProud at CPAC? Minnery shrugged. “It is an anomaly. The way they’ve treated some of our fellow organizations that aren’t here—like the Family Research Council –is unfortunate and doesn’t build a spirit of unity.” Minnery thinks voters will ultimately determine the fate of gay marriage, not a booth at CPAC.

There are multiple forums per day at CPAC, of them, only two panels on social conservative issues—one Thursday on marriage, one Friday on the pro-life movement—Minnery not only approved of the forums but he corrected me and said the judicial panel this morning, “The Left’s Campaign to Reshape the Judiciary,” belongs under the social conservative tent with marriage and life. During yesterday’s panel “Traditional Marriage and Society,” Minnery argued that one way to fight poverty is to encourage marriages that last.

Continue reading CPAC’s Social Conservative Presence: Existent, But Less Prominent...

February 10, 2011

CPAC: Skip It (FRC) or Sponsor It (CitizenLink)?

Thousands of conservatives are meeting in Washington, D.C. at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), representing the diversity of conservatism, from socially conservative activists to national defense hawks to Rep. Rand Paul libertarians. Many social conservative groups are split over whether to boycott CPAC or buy a seat at the table.

At issue is GOProud, a group representing gay conservatives and their allies. GOProud is cosponsoring the conference, which gives it a say in the conference agenda. Missing from the CPAC program are representatives from Family Research Council, the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, among others. Mike Huckabee, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), House Republican Study Committee chairman Jim Jordon (R-OH) are also skipping CPAC this year.

Not all social conservatives have decided to miss the largest conservative gathering this year. They believe that being a part of CPAC is a better strategy than boycotting it.

Sarah Palin, who has never attended CPAC, told CBN's David Brody that she thought it was better to participate even if you disagree with other participants.

"Should the GOP, should conservatives not reach out to others, not participate in events or forums that perhaps arising within those forums are issues that maybe we don't personally agree with? And I say 'no'.” said Palin. “I look at participation in an event like CPAC or any other event along kind of in that same vein as the more information that people have the better.” Palin did not attend CPAC due to other plans.

CitizenLink is one group that opted for this strategy of engagement. Rather than boycott the conference, CitizenLink is cosponsoring it. The payoff is a seat on the steering committee that helps form the conference agenda on social and domestic policy. CitizenLink's Tim Goeglein and Tom Minnery are also featured on the CPAC program.

“Our team will be engaging with those attendees who may not have previously given pro-life and pro-marriage perspectives much consideration — in order to ensure family issues are not lost amid the other important issues that will also be discussed,” CitizenLink's Sonja Swiatkiewicz said.

Leaders from the American Principles Project, American Values, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage wrote a letter to CPAC chairman David Keene announcing that they would be boycotting CPAC because of GOProud's role.

“An organization committed to the ultimate abandonment of the legal and social meaning of marriage by definition disqualifies itself from recognition as a partner in the conservative cause,” said the letter.

Continue reading CPAC: Skip It (FRC) or Sponsor It (CitizenLink)?...

February 1, 2011

Pence Out, Hunstman In (Possibly): Whom Do Evangelicals Like?

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Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) announced last week that he will not run in next year's Republican presidential primaries, leaving an opening for other candidates to court social conservatives. Pence may not be a household name, but he is well-regarded among conservative activists.

Pence had the potential to be the Dennis Kucinich of the GOP—a black-horse candidate who could poll well among the ideological base of the party. Pence edged out Mike Huckabee and handily beat Mitt Romney (13 percent) and Sarah Palin (7 percent) in the 2010 Values Voter Summit straw poll.

In a recent Rasmussen poll, likely Republican primary voters gave more support to Romney (24 percent) than to either Huckabee (17 percent) or Palin (19 percent). Among evangelicals, however, Romney came in third. Other polls show likely voters are split between Romney and Huckabee, with each polling around 20 percent of likely voters. About 15 percent say they will support Palin.

In an open memo to “conservative and evangelical leaders,” Mark DeMoss, of the Christian public relations firm The DeMoss Group, said that all of the potential candidates for the Republican nomination pass the traditional litmus tests on abortion and marriage. DeMoss offered a new litmust test: “A candidate for president of the United States should be capable of becoming president, and then competent to be the president.” For DeMoss, the candidate that passes that test is Mitt Romney.

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“Those who would suggest I am placing values on the back burner will be misreading me and wrong. I am only saying that a candidate’s values alone are not enough to get my vote. For example, my pastor shares my values, but I don’t want him to be my president,” wrote DeMoss.
DeMoss's memo highlights the challenges facing Romney. His base is the business sector, not values voters. He can raise millions of dollars, but he does not have the support of the activists on the ground.

Groups such as Focus on the Family have been critical of Romney in the past. In 2008, they lobbied Romney, who sat on the board of Marriott International, to have the hotel chain stop providing adult pay-per-view movies in their hotels.

Last week, Marriott announced it would stop providing adult movie services. Romney did not vote on the Marriott decision, however, because he recently stepped down from the board. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told the Washington Post that Romney recused himself from discussions over the adult movie policy.

Some are suspicious of Romney's Mormon faith. A survey in 2008 found that 25 percent of Americans would be upset if a Mormon was elected president. In contrast, 15 percent said they would be upset with a Baptist being president.

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There may be another prominent Mormon to consider in the 2012 presidential race. Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. Ambassador to China, resigned in order to consider a presidential campaign.

Huntsman is former Governor of Utah and son of billionaire Jon Huntsman, Sr., who founded the Huntsman Corporation. Huntsman, like Romney, holds traditional views on social issues, but his base would likely be among business leaders.

January 28, 2011

Abortion: Not Part of the State of the Union, Responses

Presidents have often included some mention of abortion in their State of the Union addresses. This week, President Obama broke from this tradition.

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His speech on Tuesday featured both big ideas and specific policy proposals. It did not, however, include any nod to pro-choice groups.


Abortion was notably absent Republicans' responses, too. The official Republican response by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) only alluded to abortion when he said that one responsibility of government was "to protect innocent life."  He did not reference any specific policies.


Tea party leader Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), who is pro-life, also remained mum on the issue during her alternative GOP response to the SOTU.


Ashley Horne of Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink said, “What I would have loved to see was the GOP to give a little more attention to the life issue. The GOP rode in on a wave of pro-life voters. This is why they're here. Pro-family, pro-life voters, the conservative movement ushered them in. And for good reason."


The House of Representatives is expected to take up several pro-life bills, including the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. This bill would permanently ban the prohibition against using federal funding to pay for abortions. Currently, the ban must be renewed each year, and the ban on federal funding for last year's health care law is an executive order.


Continue reading Abortion: Not Part of the State of the Union, Responses...

November 2, 2010

Nikki Haley, Sam Brownback Win Gov. Races

Republican Nikki Haley won the gubernatorial race in South Carolina, AP is reporting. Her conversion to Christianity from Sikhism caused a stir earlier in the election.

Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, who gave up his seat, won the Kansas gubernatorial race. See previous CT interviews.

The AP projects that Mary Fallin will become Oklahoma's first female governor (Wiki says she belongs to the Church of God denomination).

November 2, 2010

Rand Paul, Dan Coats Take Senate Seats

Republicans scored two early victories in an election that is supposed to create turnover for the House and the Senate.

Kentucky Senate/tea party candidate Rand Paul won Kentucky's Senate race while former Indiana Senator Dan Coats beat Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth, reclaiming his old seat.

During the campaign, Paul chastised his opponent state Attorney General Jack Conway for an ad referencing Paul's time as a student at Baylor University, asking whether he was a member of a secret society.

"I believe that those who stoop to the level of attacking a man's religious beliefs to gain higher office," Paul said during a debate. "I believe that they should remember that it does not profit a man to gain the world if he loses his soul in the process."

Right before the election, a new ad paid for by a group that opposed Paul accused him of mocking Jesus Christ and Christians.

CT spoke with Coats, a graduate of Wheaton College, back when he first retired from the Senate.

June 16, 2010

S.C. Gov. Race Heats Up over Haley's Religion

GOP front-runner Nikki Haley's conversion to Christianity from Sikhism is causing a stir in the primary race for governor of South Carolina.

CNN reports that her ties to the Sikh tradition have left some evangelicals in the state uneasy. She has said that she regularly attends a Methodist church but occasionally visits a Sikh temple in honor of her family.

Haley, who faces a runoff against her opponent on June 22, recently launched an ad with an appeal to her faith. "I am a woman that understands, through the Grace of God, with him all things are possible," she says at the end.

Gina Smith of The State reports that Haley's conversion came after her marriage.

Haley’s campaign has said in recent weeks that, since her 1997 conversion to Christianity, she consistently has attended a Methodist church and occasionally attended Sikh services at her parents’ request. Haley and one of her brothers converted to Christianity as adults; her parents and two other siblings are Sikhs.

Haley’s conversion at the age of 24 was influenced by her husband, Michael, raised as a Methodist.

The two married in 1996 in two ceremonies, one Methodist and one Sikh.

“(Religion) was something (husband Michael and I) talked about a lot,” Haley said Monday. “He was brought up Methodist, Christian, and I was brought up Sikh, and so you talk about the similarities and you talk about the differences, and even more so when you’re getting married and you’re going to have kids, it becomes a very real thing on how you want to raise your kids.”

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The photo on the right was posted on Haley's website before Easter. "This is a wonderful time to remember the greatness of God’s love and His sacrifice for us while we are surrounded by the ones we love," she said.

Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts apologized but refused to resign over calling Haley a “raghead.”

Update: Gerald McDermott, religion professor at Roanoke College and author of God’s Rivals, spoke with CT by e-mail about some of Sikhism's defining traits.

They combine teachings of Hindu bhakti (devotion to a personal god) and Muslim mysticism (direct communion with the divine in Sufism).

Sikhs are monotheists who reject Hindu idolatry and the caste system. Unlike Muslims, they believe there was new revelation after the completion of the Qur’an—particularly to their founder Guru Nanak (b. AD 1469).

They are known for the five k’s: kesa (uncut hair), kangha (a comb to show they have not renounced the world), kara (a steel bracelet), kachh (short breeches to show cleansing), and kirpan (a sword for protection, but often just an outline etched in the comb).

Continue reading S.C. Gov. Race Heats Up over Haley's Religion...

May 18, 2010

Ind. Rep. Mark Souder to Resign over Affair with Staffer

Indiana Rep. Mark Souder admitted to having an affair with a staffer and said he will resign today. In a 2004 interview with Religion and Ethics Newsweekly where he spoke at length about evangelicals, he described his church as somewhere between fundamentalist and evangelical.

According to news reports, Souder said in a statement that he “sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff."

“In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain,” he said, according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. “I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process.

Souder said his job in Congress was all-consuming, “especially in a district with costly, competitive elections every two years. I do not have any sort of ‘normal’ life – for family, for friends, for church, for community.” According to the bio on his website, he and his family attend Emmanuel Community Church, a church associated with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, in Fort Wayne.

“As I leave public office, my plans are focused upon repairing my marriage, earning back the trust of my family and my community, and renewing my walk with the Lord,” he said.

Continue reading Ind. Rep. Mark Souder to Resign over Affair with Staffer...

March 29, 2010

CWA Criticizes RNC for Nightclub Expense

Concerned Women for America is asking the Republican National Committee to explain the party's expense for a $1,946.25 visit to a club with topless dancers and bondage outfits.

"As women we find the very idea of officials from either party conducting business inside an establishment that objectifies and demeans women outrageous," Penny Nance, the Chief Executive Officer of Concerned Women for America, said in a statement today.

Did they really agree to reimburse nearly $2,000 for a bondage-themed night club? We have several questions for the RNC: Why would a staffer believe that this is acceptable, and has this kind of thing been approved in the past?

Please explain to women if and why you think it is appropriate to attach your organizations to pornographic enterprises? Did you really swill drinks, ogle young girls and plan party business at this kind of establishment?

The RNC will be reimbursed by Erik Brown of Orange, Calif., the political consultant who expensed the committee for the February visit to the club, according to the Associated Press.

March 12, 2010

Joel Hunter Leaves the Republican Party

Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter told CT today in an e-mail that he has left the Republican Party.

For 40 years I was a registered Republican like Paul was a registered Pharisee after he became a follower of Christ - when it furthered the agenda of the Gospel (as I understood it) then I was active as a Rep. When it didn't, I wasn't.

I was never comfortable being identified with a political Party but the hyper-partisanship and the outside voices hijacking legitimate political debate is not something of which I will be a part.

Christian philanthropist Howard Ahmanson left the GOP to become a Democrat in May 2009.

CT has profiled Hunter and interviewed him several times in the past about his relationship with President Obama.

(h/t Ben Smith)

February 22, 2010

Dobson Endorses Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson today endorsed Texas Governor Rick Perry for re-election, according to CNN.

Perry faces a primary battle against Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who was endorsed by former President George H.W. Bush in January.

"Over the years, Gov. Perry has established a record that is consistently pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-religious liberty," Dobson said in a statement. "No other candidate in this race measures up to the high standards established by Gov. Perry on these critical issues of our day."

In the 2008 election, Dobson endorsed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the primaries and later endorsed Arizona Senator John McCain. Dobson retired from his role at Focus on the Family but announced he would begin his own radio show. The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that Dobson's show will begin February 26.

February 11, 2010

Dan Coats Enters Ind. Senate Race

Former Indiana Senator Dan Coats threw his hat into the ring yesterday and announced his plan to campaign against Indiana Senator Evan Bayh this year.

Democrats quickly began attacking Coats's lobbying background and criticizing his residency in Virginia. In Talking Points Memo style, Marc Ambinder considers other Republicans the Democrats may have to overcome this year, including Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Simmons of Connecticut, Mike Castle of Delaware, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and John Boozman of Arkansas.

Coats served four terms in the House of Representatives before he was appointed to replace Dan Quayle in the Senate when Quayle became vice president. He was elected in 1990 and in 1992 won the seat outright and served as ambassador to Germany under President Bush. Bayh, a former two-term governor, was elected in 1998 to succeed Coats, who chose not to seek re-election then.

Christianity Today wrote about Evan Bayh's possibility as President Obama's vice presidential candidate and spoke with Coats, a graduate of Wheaton College, when he first retired from the Senate.

November 3, 2009

Republican Chris Christie Takes New Jersey

Chris Christie became the first Republican in several years to become New Jersey's governor in the Democratic-leaning state.

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He joins Virginia governor-elect Bob McConnell as the second Republican Catholic to be voted into gubernatorial office today.

The Associated Press reports that with 75 percent of the precincts reporting, Christie leads with 50 percent of the vote over his Democratic opponent Gov. Jon Corzine, who is left with 44 percent of the vote. President Obama invested in the race, campaigning with Corzine five times on three visits.

During the campaign, Corzine targeted Christie in an ad criticizing Christie's support of a constitutional ban on abortion and opposition of funding stem cell research.

Continue reading Republican Chris Christie Takes New Jersey...

November 3, 2009

Republican Bob McDonnell Wins Virginia Governor's Race

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Republican Bob McDonnell won Virginia's governor race today, becoming the second Catholic governor of Virginia, the Associated Press reports. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine became the first.

The former state attorney general defeated Democratic candidate, R. Creigh Deeds, who attempted to slam McDonnell for his 1989 master’s thesis while attending Regent University. McDonnell had described working women and feminists as "detrimental" to the family. Deeds's strategy didn't work, the Washington Post writes.

The strategy appeared to work for a time, as polls tightened. But McDonnell fought back with a series of TV spots featuring supportive testimonials from his daughter, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, and a gallery of professional women who had worked for him in the attorney general's office. Increasingly, voters said they saw Deeds's campaign as a largely negative one that failed to define his own vision for the state.

Continue reading Republican Bob McDonnell Wins Virginia Governor's Race ...

October 19, 2009

Huckabee, Romney Lead Early GOP Field

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee comes in first among likely Republican voters for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll released today.

And even though former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s forthcoming autobiography has topped Amazon book charts for weeks, she trails (18 percent) Huckabee (29 percent) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (24 percent). In July, voters placed Romney (25 percent) and Palin (24 percent) in a close tie while Huckabee finished a close third at 22 percent.

This time around among evangelicals, Huckabee leads Palin by 17 percent while Palin beats Romney by 14 percent.

In other news:

Continue reading Huckabee, Romney Lead Early GOP Field...

August 17, 2009

Jenny Sanford Extends Forgiveness in First Interview

South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford offers forgiveness to her husband and his mistress in her first interview since he admitted his affair. The Vogue article describes her shock, struggles, and faith. See my post on Her.meneutics for more.

July 29, 2009

State Senator from the Bible Belt Resigns

Tennessee Republican Paul Stanley announced yesterday that he was resigning from the state Senate after his affair with an intern became public.

"I have decided to focus my full attention on my family," the a 47-year-old evangelical said in a statement. Stanley defended his support of a ban on adoptions by unmarried couples in a radio interview yesterday.

"Whatever I stood for and advocated, I still believe to be true," he said. "And just because I fell far short of what God's standard was for me and my wife, doesn't mean that that standard is reduced in the least bit."

The intern's boyfriend had threatened to release nude photos of her unless Stanley paid him $10,000, according to news reports.

July 2, 2009

Conservatives to Sanford: Get Your House in Order

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's saga has taken a turn with the latest revelations that he had "crossed the line" with other women. Al Mohler, Charles Colson, and La Shawn Barber seem pretty disgusted with his "love story" description.

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"This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story," Sanford told the Associated Press. "A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day."

As Dan Gilgoff noted, few conservative Christian organizations have spoken up on Sanford while politicians and pundits discuss whether he should resign. But here's Mohler's latest.

David acknowledged the reality of his sin, expressed his hatred of the sin, and became a model for us all of repentance. Governor Sanford, on the other hand, demonstrates the audacity to speak wistfully of his sin, longingly of his lover, and romantically of his descent into unfaithfulness.

Governor Sanford is no King David, and the people of South Carolina -- as well as the watching world -- now observe the sad spectacle of a man who, while admitting to wrongdoing, shows no genuine repentance.

...If the governor is really serious about demonstrating character to his four sons, he should resign his office and give himself unreservedly to his wife and family.

Colson and others discuss Sanford's use of biblical analogies on The New York Times website.

Having read the governor's latest statements about several prior dalliances (enough confessing already, please) I think he needs to go home, and get his own house in order before he can do much for the state of South Carolina.

It's time to bring this tawdry and embarrassing soap opera to a quick ending. I pray for the governor, his wife and his four kids. Get that together, governor, and everything else will fall into place.

Continue reading Conservatives to Sanford: Get Your House in Order...

June 30, 2009

Sanford: Spiritual Adviser Chaperoned Mistress Farewell Meeting

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admitted today that he saw his mistress more times, including what was supposed to be a farewell meeting in New York accompanied by a spiritual adviser, according to an Associated Press report.

The governor told that AP that with his wife's permission, went to New York with a "trusted spiritual adviser" serving as chaperone to end the affair. The three went to church and dinner together and parted ways the same night. The AP article does not indicate who the adviser was.

The AP also interviewed the man Sanford referred to during his press conference as a "spiritual giant," who declined to say whether he had met Sanford's mistress. Sanford and his wife attended Warren "Cubby" Culbertson's spiritual "boot camp."

He thinks Sanford was simply caught off guard by "the power of darkness." Culbertson also thinks that the only thing holding his friends' marriage together right now is "their vow to God."

"Because it's not feelings - it's not emotions," Culbertson said, the smile fading from his tanned face. "For most Christians, at some point in your marriage, if you're married long enough, you do it because that's what we're called to do - out of obedience instead of out of passion. And I think that's where Mark and Jenny are right now."

As politicians and pundits discussed debate whether Sanford should resign, he apologized to members of his cabinet, referring to the story of David and Bathsheba in the Bible.

"What I find interesting is the story of David, and the way in which he fell mightily - fell in very, very significant ways, but then picked up the pieces and built from there," he said.

Sanford offered an apology on his website using words like grace, renewal, and the sin of pride.

So in the aftermath of this failure I want to not only apologize, but to commit to growing personally and spiritually. Immediately after all this unfolded last week I had thought I would resign - as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword. A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise - that for God to really work in my life I shouldn't be getting off so lightly.

The full letter is after the jump:

Continue reading Sanford: Spiritual Adviser Chaperoned Mistress Farewell Meeting ...

June 24, 2009

S.C. Governor Admits Affair, Asks Forgiveness

Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, admitted that he had an affair with a woman in Argentina after mysteriously disappearing from the public for several days.

"God's law indeed is there to protect you from yourself, and there are consequences if you breach that," he said in a press conference today. "I've been unfaithful to my wife. I've developed a relationship with what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina."

He also alluded to getting counseling through "C Street," which Dan Gilgoff connects to The Fellowship, the Christian group behind the National Prayer Breakfast.

Reporter: Did your wife and your family know about the affair before the trip to Argentina?

Sanford: Yes. We've been working through this thing for about the last five months. I've been to a lot of different - as part of what we called "C Street" when I was in Washington. It was, believe it or not, a Christian Bible study - some folks that asked members of Congress hard questions that I think were very, very important. And I've been working with them. I see Cubby Culbertson in the back of the room. I would consider him a spiritual giant. . . .

Family Research Council had Sanford on their weekly radio show on June 12 to ask Sanford why he objected to taking stimulus money.
"The Bible is very, very clear about the principle of debt and who owns who in the equation of debt," Sanford told Tony Perkins.
Perkins replied, "The Bible says the borrower is the servants to the lender and I think the concerns here is the strings that may attached to these federal monies." Sanford was also invited to attend to the 2009 Voters Values Summit but his photo has been taken down.

A Newsweek profile in May says he thought the religious right has been too influential in recent years, but the profile doesn't offer more details.

Continue reading S.C. Governor Admits Affair, Asks Forgiveness...

May 12, 2009

GOP Head Steps Back from Comments on Romney's Mormonism

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has apologized for a recent comment he made that linked Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign to Republicans' concern about
Romney's Mormon faith.

"It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism," Steele told a caller May 8 on a radio talk show when he served as a guest host for conservative Bill Bennett.

The audio and transcript of the portion of the show featuring Steele's comments were posted on Think Progress, the Web site of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The Republican National Committee responded by telling reporters that Steele considers Romney to be a "respected" part of the GOP.

"Chairman Steele regrets the way his comments have been interpreted," RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in The Hill newspaper. "Chairman Steele believes Mitt Romney is a respected and influential voice in the Republican Party and looks to his leadership and ideas to help move our party and our nation in the right direction."

Continue reading GOP Head Steps Back from Comments on Romney's Mormonism...

May 2, 2009

Former VP Candidate Jack Kemp Dies

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Former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp has died, according to the Associated Press. Kemp was diagnosed with cancer in January.

Kemp ran on the presidential ticket with Sen. Bob Dole in 1996. A 1996 New York Times article provides more background on Kemp's faith and politics.

After his marriage, Mr. Kemp became a Presbyterian. He does not like to talk about his religion, although he says he has become a born-again Christian. He is a staunch opponent of legal abortions. But as a politician, he has always been more interested in economic issues than in the social issues like abortion that dominate the political thinking of organizations on the Christian right.

April 28, 2009

Specter To Switch Parties, Republicans May Lose Filibuster Power

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania caused a surprising turn of events for Washington today when he said he would switch to the Democratic party, possibly taking away enough Republican's Senate filibuster votes.

If Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next senator from Minnesota, and Specter successfully switches parties when he runs again in 2010, the Democrats will be able to advance President Obama's agenda more smoothly.

March 25, 2009

Philanthropist Leaves GOP

Christian philanthropist Howard Ahmanson has announced that he has left the GOP to become a Democrat.

"The Republican Party of the State of California seems to have decided to narrow itself down to one article of faith, which may be described as NTESEBREE: No Tax Shall Ever Be Raised Ever Ever," he writes in a column.

This is how Time described Ahmanson in their cover story on the top 25 evangelicals: "Money makes the Word go round, and this wealthy, conservative Republican couple takes a dizzyingly ecclectic approach to funding evangelism ... The couple, both 55, now are warning powerful conservative Christians about the pitfalls of hubris in the aftermath of their victories over liberals last November."

CT included the Ahmansons in a 2002 story on the "Patrons of the Evangelical Mind."

(h/t Rod Dreher)

February 25, 2009

Can Gov. Bobby Jindal Recover?

I confess. After President Obama's address last night, the place I watched it at closed right before Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's response. So I'm confined to the blogs and Twitter, but even conservatives are saying his delivery needs work.

New York Times columnist David Brooks called it "stale" and "insane" and "a disaster for the Republican Party." (h/t Ben Smith, Politico)

That's unfortunate for Jindal, considering what Brooks told me last week.

Are there other evangelicals you would like to see more of?

I liked Mike Huckabee's campaign. There [are] a bunch of governors who are committed Christians as well as very modern, sophisticated politicians like Bobby Jindal in Louisiana. The people will naturally emerge, I think.

Over at Beliefnet, Rod Dreher makes a religious comparison.

Bobby Jindal was a total disappointment. He was badly over-rehearsed; Matthew, my kid, watched with me and said, "He sounds totally artificial. He sounds like a televangelist." I can't improve on that description. It sounded like that to me too.

Continue reading Can Gov. Bobby Jindal Recover?...

January 30, 2009

Republican National Commitee Elects Michael Steele

The Republican National Committee has elected former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele chairman, the first black person to fill the position.

Steele, a pro-life Catholic, fought against a moderate image, but advocated for electing moderates to be elected in the party.

"There are a lot of people who would join us and be a party of our efforts who are pro-choice but they love our message on money; they love our value system on family values, broadly speaking, so then how do we cross-appeal," Steele said in a December interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. "How do we make ourselves relevant to the 21st century electorate which is clearly of a different mindset on a host of issues?"

October 29, 2008

The GOP's God Gap, Take 3

Notice how so much political reporting these days about the future of the Republican Party is about the God Gap between religious conservatives and the rest of the party? Much of it hinges on the fact that Sarah Palin has become the movement's new political face. The New York Times reports today that conservatives are already discussing her future political prospects should the McCain-Palin ticket be defeated next Tuesday (The Times says it's "conservatives" who are excited about Palin, but the paper is basically writing about social conservatives):

Whether the Republican presidential ticket wins or loses on Tuesday, a group of prominent conservatives are planning to meet the next day to discuss the way forward, and whatever the outcome, Gov. Sarah Palin will be high on the agenda.

Ms. Palin, of Alaska, has had a rocky time since being named as Senator John McCain's running mate, but to many conservatives her future remains bright. If Mr. McCain wins, she will give the social conservative movement a seat inside the White House. If he loses, she could emerge as a standard bearer for the movement and a potential presidential candidate in 2012, albeit one who will need to address her considerable political damage.

Her prospects, in or out of government, are the subject of intensive conversations among conservative leaders, including the group that will meet next Wednesday in rural Virginia to weigh social, foreign policy and economic issues, as well as the political landscape and the next presidential election.

Ms. Palin's aides insist that winning this time around is her sole objective. But there are signs that she, too, is making sure that she is well positioned for the future if she and Mr. McCain lose.

The 2012 Republican primary could be waged on winning religious conservatives than the '08 GOP primary was, with Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee vying to become the movement's political standard bearer.

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

September 4, 2008

'What Good Fortune. ... The Stars Are Aligned'

Not to be a party pooper, but it seems to me that one of the most memorable lines tonight came not from McCain's speech, but from the video that introduced him. Here's how it ended:

"What a life. What a faith. What a family. What good fortune, that America would choose this leader at precisely this time. The stars are aligned. Change will come."

The stars are aligned?

There have been discussions about McCain being superstitious, but I can't imagine that the McCain campaign was really intending to offer a "dog whistle" to astrology fans.

But what were they going for? Gravitas? Were they jealous of the Obama comments they included in their very own "The One" ad?

Whatever the intent, it's an off-key note to sound if you're trying to rally a religious conservative base.

September 3, 2008

Conception

No comments on abortion from Sarah Palin tonight (at least according to the prepared remarks; she's speaking now). But it sure came up a lot tonight from the podium.

"America's hope is in a seasoned, strong leader in this dangerous world ... a President who knows in the core of his soul that human life begins at conception," said Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams.

Mike Huckabee had a similar comment: "It is not above John McCain's pay grade to grasp the simple fact that human life begins at conception, and he is committed to protecting it."

And GOP Chairman Michael Steele told the crowd, "John McCain knows we must empower working families and stand with them against the erosion of our constitutional rights, the corruption of our school systems, the weakening of our families and the taking of human life - born and unborn."

August 31, 2008

Convention schedule in flux

As tens of thousands of people flee Hurricane Gustav's path, White House officials announced that President Bush and Vice President Cheney will not speak at the Republican National Convention Monday night as planned.

Sen. John McCain said that the convention schedule will be altered, the New York Times reports.

"We must redirect our efforts from the really celebratory event of the nomination of president and vice president of our party to acting as all Americans," McCain said in Mississippi. "We have to go from a party event to a call to the nation for action, action to help our fellow citizens in this time of tragedy and disaster, action in the form of volunteering, donations, reaching out our hands and our hearts and our wallets to the people who are under such great threat from this great natural disaster. I pledge that tomorrow night, and if necessary, throughout our convention if necessary, to act as Americans not Republicans, because America needs us now no matter whether we are Republican or Democrat."

CNN reports that a federally supported computer projection says Gustav could cause up to $29.3 billion in property damage. It also projected that Gustav is headed toward 4.5 million people, 59,953 buildings, including 170 hospitals and at least 1,100 police and fire stations.

Yesterday, Gustav was reported as a category 4 storm but is being reported as a category 3 storm, the same category as Hurricane Katrina three years ago that killed thousands of people.

August 30, 2008

Is Palin an evangelical?

John McCain's vice presidential pick Sarah Palin has a Pentecostal background, but reporters seem to be struggling to define her faith.

A profile in the Wall Street Journal says she's Lutheran.

The Washington Post writes, "Her evangelical Christian faith -- she believes in creationism and is adamantly opposed to abortion -- may help [McCain] court skeptical social conservatives."

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Hm. I'm not sure those two beliefs necessarily link to an "evangelical Christian faith."

Instead of assigning a label to her faith, Eric Gorski of the Associated Press reports that a business administrator in Pentecostal Assemblies of God told him that her home church is The Church on the Rock, an independent congregation. A spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign told Gorski that Palin attends different churches and does not consider herself Pentecostal.

Tennessean religion reporter Bob Smietana writes that Palin grew up among evangelicals, and attended the Wasilla Assembly of God as a teenager and young adult. Smietana writes that while in Juneau, Alaska's capital, she sometimes attends Juneau Christian Center, an Assemblies of God congregation.

Boston College professor Alan Wolfe writes at The New Republic that Palin is an evangelical, shaped by the region in which she lives.

"... she is not a Southern evangelical, and therein lies a tale."
Southern Baptists, he writes, became preoccupied with sin, while those in the west were more libertarian where sins could become forgiven.

He writes, "Sarah Palin named two of her children after witches, once took drugs, and refused to sign a bill forbidding domestic benefits for gay couples. Any one of these--especially the first--would raise suspicion in the eyes of a traditional Southern Baptist."

With Richard Land's high praise, however, I'm not seeing that suspicion quite yet.

"Palin, the gun-toting mom, has a libertarian streak in politics and a libertarian streak in religion," Wolfe writes. " ... [W]hile Palin may be quickly endorsed by men speaking in Southern accents, she is neither a Billy Graham nor a Jimmy Carter. American evangelicalism, like John McCain, has many mansions. Sarah Palin inhabits only one of them."

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life broadly describes Palin as Protestant. Although it's clear that some evangelicals are excited about her, I wonder whether she calls herself an evangelical.

Update:

Fred Barnes wrote last summer in the Weekly Standard how Palin's faith impacts her politics.

"Her Christian faith--Palin grew up attending nondenominational Bible churches--was a minor issue in the race," Barnes wrote. "She told me her faith affects her politics this way: 'I believe everything happens for a purpose. In my own personal life, if I dedicated back to my Creator what I'm trying to create for the good . . . everything will turn out fine.' That same concept applies to her political career, she suggested."

Jay Newton-Small at Time Magazine asked Palin some religion questions two weeks ago.

What's your religion?
Christian.

Any particular...?
No. Bible-believing Christian.

What church do you attend?
A non-denominational Bible church. I was baptized Catholic as a newborn and then my family started going to non-denominational churches throughout our life.

As a side note and not religion related, someone asked me if I feel a kindred spirit with Sarah Palin because our names are so similar. Apparently, her middle name is Louise, so it's Sarah Louise Pulliam vs. Sarah Louise Palin. Just a few typos and I'd be running for VP.

Another update: Mollie over at GetReligion criticizes Wolfe's mention in The New Republic that Palin named two of her children after witches.

Todd Palin told People: "Sarah’s parents were coaches and the whole family was involved in track and I was an athlete in high school, so with our first-born, I was, like, ‘Track!’ Bristol is named after Bristol Bay. That’s where I grew up, that’s where we commercial fish. Willow is a community there in Alaska. And then Piper, you know, there’s just not too many Pipers out there and it’s a cool name. And Trig is a Norse name for 'strength.'"

August 30, 2008

Cizik's caution vs. Dobson's elation

I'm finally in Minneapolis (the airline lost my luggage, but at least I have my laptop), and I'm catching up on the Sarah Palin developments.

Although I've seen thrilling remarks in the press releases from conservative evangelicals, Suzanne Sataline from the Wall Street Journal talked with one evangelical who is more cautious.

Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said he was initially stunned because he had never heard of the Alaskan governor.

"Do we have a Dan Quayle on our hands? I'm open to being persuaded otherwise if she proves herself," Cizik told Sataline.

"I like some of the personal choices she's made, such as carrying a Downs child to term,'' Cizik said, referring the governor's infant son who has Down Syndrome. "So will millions of evangelicals.''

Cizik has been an outspoken advocate for environmental issues, which drew heavy criticism from some conservative Christians, including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. Cizik said he and other evangelicals need more information about Palin's views on the environment and global affairs.

"I don't think evangelicals are going to vote for this team for superficial partisan reasons. I think lots of people are looking beyond labels this time around,'' he said to the Journal. He told Sataline he hasn't decided how he will vote.

On the other hand, Dobson is pretty excited. Even though six months ago he planned not to vote for John McCain, he told Dennis Prager, "But I can tell you that if I had to go into the studio, I mean the voting booth today, I would pull that lever."

He said in a statement: "Sen. McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is an outstanding choice that should be extremely reassuring to the conservative base of his party. She is a strong executive who hates corruption and puts principle above politics. After floating the names of Tom Ridge and Sen. Joe Lieberman in recent weeks ? selections that would have created consternation among pro-family Republicans ? Sen. McCain has chosen a solid conservative who has a reputation for espousing common sense."

August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin's faith

I am watching all the positive press releases from conservative evangelicals roll in on Sen. John McCain's vice president pick. So far, I haven't seen a negative one.

I am dying to blog more, but like the other 15,000 reporters, I have to get to the Denver airport to make it to Minneapolis.

More coming, but for now, Dallas Morning News reporter Jeffrey Weiss writes about her Pentecostal background and Mollie over at GetReligion has pulled together several articles on the religion angle.

Update: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has put together a biographical page on Sarah Palin. Right now, it's mostly background information but a closer look at the new Vice Presidential candidate's faith will be coming.

August 29, 2008

Rice sociologist calls McCain's pick 'strategically brilliant'

Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, believes that Sen. John's McCain's decision to pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a strategically brilliant development. Lindsay is author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. I spoke with Lindsay this morning.

"The only dirt I know on [Palin] is that there’s some kind of indication that she was using political pressure to get [her ex-brother-in-law] fired. She has a lot of appeal for evangelicals. She’s pro-life, that’s something that’s important to evangelicals. No Republican has ever won the White House without evangelicals."

"If [McCain] had chosen a pro-choice candidate, like Ridge or Lieberman, [evangelicals] would have voted McCain, but they wouldn’t have mobilized around him. [Palin] is pro-life, she was involved in [Fellowship of Christian Athletes] growing up, she has the right background. Her child has Down syndrome. That shows not only a commitment to pro-life, but to living it out. That will be important for evangelical supporters of McCain. I think evangelicals honestly are probably relieved that McCain chose a pro-life candidate. In my research, the reason so many of these leaders were Republican was because of abortion."

"The real liability McCain faces is that he’s built his campaign against Obama on the issue of experience. Here’s a first term governor who was mayor of a small town in Alaska. Not a lot of executive experience, but McCain may be able to say there are different elements in the campaign that are important."

"I don’t know enough about [Palin] to say if she’s a perfect candidate. She doesn’t have the national profile that Mike Huckabee has. It is possible that McCain can introduce her to evangelicals in a way that’s winsome in the next couple of days."

Is she an evangelical?

"I don’t know what her church attendance is like. She’s been involved with groups that cater to evangelicals, but I don’t know if she is or not."

What about Sen. Obama's religious outreach? Do you think it's working?

"I think he’s very smart in terms of religious outreach. He’s got some great people working on his staff working on that front. The thing about Senator Obama’s campaign is that he does not have to win large segments of the evangelical votes. All he has to do is carve off some of votes in certain places. The cosmopolitan vote is the one most up for grabs."

"A cosmopolitan evangelical is someone who is less interested in converting the country or taking the country back for Christ; they are interested in seeing their faith as attractive. They’re less prone to see the evangelical subculture as their primary point of reference. It’s the cosmopolitan evangelicals that [McCain] has to win over in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida."

August 29, 2008

McCain picks Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for VP

Sen. John McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, and so far, it seems like bells and whistles from the conservative evangelical community.

Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America said in a statement: "Governor Sarah Palin is a bold choice for Vice President who is a courageous advocate for unborn children. In addition, she is a conservative who is a reformer not afraid to shake up the establishment."

Back on Aug. 8, Richard Land told CBS she would be the pick that would most excite Southern Baptists and other conservatives.

"Richard Land: Probably Governor Palin of Alaska, because she's a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there's a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She's strongly pro-life.

She's a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she's a woman. She's a reform Governor. I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells, along with Mike Huckabee, of course, who's a Southern Baptist."

Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins said in a statement:

"On February 11th of this year, for example, she signed into law the 'Safe Haven for Infants Act,' facilitating the safe surrender of an unwanted newborn to a place of safety and hope. Her actions contrasts sharply with the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who when he was in the Illinois Senate repeatedly helped to kill a bill that sought to protect babies who survived abortion."

Over on the Between Two Worlds blog Andy Naselli has found an article from four months ago when Al Mohler highlighted the Palin family in an article ("Welcome to the World, Trig Paxson Van Palin") and on his radio show (also titled "Welcome to the World, Trig Paxson Van Palin").

Here's a description of the radio show:

A little boy with an extra chromosome was born on April 18. His name is Trig Paxson Van Palin and his new home is the Alaska Governor's Mansion in Juneau. His mom is Governor Sarah Palin, who along with her husband Todd, has welcomed Trig as their second son and fifth child.

On today's show, Mohler explains why Trig's very existence defies the Culture of Death and gives us all hope.


In 2006, the Anchorage Daily News included her religion in a series of articles on her.

"Her Christian faith, they say, came from her mother, who took her children to area Bible churches as they were growing up (Sarah is the third of four siblings)," Tom Kizzia wrote. "They say her faith has been steady since high school, when she led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and grew stronger as she sought out believers in her college years."

August 27, 2008

Minnery disappointed by religious outreach, not thrilled with McCain

Tom Minnery, a senior vice president with Focus on the Family, is attending many of the religious outreach events at the Democratic National Convention this week. He spoke with me about the Democrat’s religious outreach and the challenges Sen. John McCain has to overcome with evangelical voters.

What do you think so far?
I was entirely disappointed in their supposed outreach to conservative evangelical believers. It was a fraud. There was a panel, a faith forum, how can progressives work with conservative, religious people. Not a single conservative among then nine speakers and it was tired old leftist dogma. There was absolutely no discussion about responsible fatherhood. There was not a single solution proposed that didn’t involve the government.

What did you think about the interfaith service?
It’s interfaith as long as it’s on the left. I didn’t see a prominent conservative leader speak. Rev. [Blake] who spoke about the evil of abortion, I suspect he won’t be part of the interfaith dialogue in the future. It doesn’t exist. What a shame. I was hoping to see if there was real fruit in this dialogue in the supposed reach out to conservatives. They now have a candidate Barack Obama who is comfortable talking about religion, but his is a traditional liberal theological viewpoint and they went with the flow. Jim Wallis is an increasing disappointment. He may be evangelical theologically, but politically he’s liberal. Rick Warren said last week in that interview with the Wall Street Journal that his book is an agenda of the Democratic Party and I agree with that.

What about the Democrats’ efforts to reduce abortion?
There’s only a reason that abortions should be reduced, and that’s for the very same reason it should be eliminated. If it’s not life, what’s the problem with it?

What about John McCain? He’s struggled to talk about his own faith.
He does. I’m not sure of the extent of his saving faith if there is one. We as evangelicals would have hoped to hear a lot more. I hope those who are Christians who are around him are talking to him. He usually talks about that Vietnam soldier’s faith. It loosened his bonds, scratching a cross in the dirt, I’ve heard that about six times. He does seem to have viable Judeo-Christian worldview, which means that things of God are significant, the church needs to be vigorous and independent, he knows the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.

Continue reading Minnery disappointed by religious outreach, not thrilled with McCain...

August 19, 2008

Would McCain choose a pro-abortion candidate?

Vice presidential candidate guessing games continue

Sen. John McCain told the Weekly Standard last week that he would consider a pro-abortion candidate, but Fox News reports today that has ruled out former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

Republican National Committee officials told Fox today that McCain is no longer considering Ridge, who supports abortion rights. McCain has announced that he will announce his running mate Aug. 26, the day after the Democratic National Convention ends.

Fox reports that senior McCain advisers and aides have told RNC officials that McCain "got the message" last week that choosing a running mate who supports abortion rights would not be helpful.

The National Review reported yesterday that the McCain campaign had called state Republican officials around the country the last couple of days to weigh consequences of a pro-choice running mate.

The Associated Press reports that McCain's top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential pick in 2000 who now is an independent.

Sen. Barack Obama may announce his running mate this Saturday. His short list includes Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh.

August 14, 2008

Huck v. Romney

It's time to connect the flip-flop charge to the anti-Mormon thing.

Huck tells Fox that the Mittster would be a bad choice for VP because of his flipflopping, but not because he's a Mormon: "I think there are better choices for Sen. McCain that have the approval of value voters." It's time to connect the flip-flop charge to the anti-Mormon thing.

Many values voters--i.e. evangelicals--distrust Mormons. Why? Because, in evangelical eyes, Mormons claim to be something they're not; to wit, Christians. People who change positions are not trustworthy because they claim to be something they didn't use to be. The suspicion is they're sailing under false pretenses, pretending to be something they aren't. So what I'd say is that by so vigorously embracing all the values values voters embrace--rather than maintaining a certain distance--Romney actually reinforced anti-Mormon sentiment among evangelicals. (As in: "He says he's just like us? What else would you expect from a Mormon?") Just the opposite of what he intended. And at this point irremediable.

Originally posted at Spiritual Politics.

August 11, 2008

Richard Land's VP Advice to McCain: Pick Sarah Palin

It's not the name you typically hear on the lips of Christian Right heavies leaning on John McCain to pick a rock-ribbed social conservative as a running mate: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. But that's Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief--and Beliefnet blogger--Richard Land cited in his recent CBS News interview as his top veep pick:

CBSNews.com: Who's on the list of people mentioned for VP that you think would most excite Southern Baptists and other members of the conservative faith community?

Richard Land: Probably Governor Palin of Alaska, because she's a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there's a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She's strongly pro-life.

She's a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she's a woman. She's a reform Governor. I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells, along with Mike Huckabee, of course, who's a Southern Baptist.

On Mitt Romney, meanwhile, Land is personally enthusiastic but says a good chunk of evangelicals would oppose him on religious grounds:

CBSNews.com: And what about Mitt Romney?

Richard Land: I think Mitt Romney would be an excellent choice. There are people in the evangelical community who would have a problem with his Mormonism. I am not one of them. I mean, I'm very clear that I do not believe Mormonism is a Christian faith. But that does not disqualify someone from being President or Vice President. And my guess would be that, probably, about 15 to 20 percent of the evangelical community would have a problem with his Mormonism.

So Palin, eh? If Land's saying it, her name must be making the rounds in evangelical circles. And God-o-Meter thinks Land's got a strong point about her ability to deliver independent women voters. How many other vice presidential picks could excite both cultural conservatives and swing voters?

This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.