Romney Campaign Building Relationships With Evangelical Leaders

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 3, 2012   |   5:38PM   |   Washington, DC

In any election, especially one featuring a clear contrast between the pro-abortion record of President Barack Obama and the candidate with the support of pro-life groups, Mitt Romney, turnout is a crucial component of winning.

In an effort to boost his standing with evangelical voters, some of whom are still skeptical about the former governor’s conversion to the pro-life perspective, the Romney campaign has begun working closely with leading pro-life evangelicals.

As David Brody, Chief Political Correspondent for CBN News indicates, Romney’s campaign is making a concerted effort to build the necessary relationships between Romney and top evangelical leaders that will provide solid lines of communication not only during the campaign but on policy beyond it.

Mitt Romney’s campaign has begun a serious push to engage evangelical leaders behind the scenes including weekly meetings, personal phone calls from Romney, discussions about appearing at more faith-based events and serious dialogue about convening a gathering this fall with national evangelical leaders. In just the last few weeks, Mitt Romney has spoken on the phone a couple times with popular evangelical pastor Rick Warren and there have been efforts to try and schedule a face-to-face meeting between Romney and Dr. James Dobson, one of the most respected evangelical leaders in the country.

Peter Flaherty, a senior advisor for the Romney campaign has been the main liaison when it comes to outreach within the conservative Christian community. He has spoken and met with numerous influential conservative Christian leaders including regular meetings with Jim Daly, Tim Goeglin and Tom Minnery from Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council President Ralph Reed with the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Dr. Richard Land with The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Reverend Sammy Rodriguez with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Gary Bauer with American Values, Bob Reccord with the Council for National Policy and Mark Rodgers, a former senior advisor to Rick Santorum.

Tim Goeglein, a Special Assistant to George W. Bush and now a Vice- President for Focus on the Family, who was a key pro-life liaison between the Bush Administration and pro-life leaders and groups, talked with Brody about the evangelical push.

“The Romney team has done a fine job of reaching out and keeping us in the loop. Our relationships have steadily built over the course of the last year and a half. They have been pro-active about picking strategic times in which to share information and that will be particularly helpful over the course of the next few months,” he said.

The relationship with Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, is also important because, as Brody says, “Romney needs to perform well among Hispanic voters and Rodriguez is a key conduit in this area.”

“I stand convinced the Governor appreciates the significance of the Hispanic electorate and he refuses to give up the Hispanic vote without a fight. He has made a 180-degree turn and is headed to a significant Hispanic outreach,” Rodriguez said.

Brody says the goal is not convincing evangelical leaders to support Romney but working on how to get them to bring their supporters on board.

While the Romney campaign is making a serious push to bring evangelical leaders on board, it isn’t so much the leaders that need convincing. Rather, the focus now is on getting the conservative evangelical base motivated. To that end, The Brody File has learned that last week around seventy conservative Christian leaders met in the suburbs of Washington DC to discuss what it would take to get behind Romney. The meeting was off the record but the goal was to figure out ways to get the conservative Christian base mobilized and excited about the GOP presidential nominee. Many at the meeting were those who attended a similar meeting in Texas during the GOP Primary when those same leaders were trying to figure out which Republican candidate to get behind. While no final plan was hatched, there is now more communications going back and forth between this group and the Romney campaign where ideas and concerns are being communicated about how best to mobilize the base. What is clear is that evangelical leaders are mostly on board with Romney but their constituencies are not quite there yet.



FRC President Tony Perkins, who was designated as a spokesman for the group, would not comment on the specifics of the off the record meeting, but he did say, “President Obama has brought the intensity level to eighty percent but if the Romney campaign feels like the base is already there just because of Obama, that’s a huge, huge mistake. The base of the conservative movement is not there yet. Can they get there? I think so.” Rodriguez, who has developed a good working relationship with the campaign, still knows that there is some serious work to be done with the base. “The bridge between reluctancy and enthusiasm as it pertains to the Romney candidacy is called trust. Can Evangelicals trust Romney not only to fix the economy but also will Romney defend life, strengthen the family, push back on the incursions regarding religious liberty as made evident by the HHS mandate? In other words, can Evangelicals trust Romney with the trifecta of Evangelical concerns; faith, family and freedom? Upcoming meetings with evangelical leaders may very well begin to answer the question.”

Brody says Romney can further cement his support with evangelicals by virtue of selecting a pro-life running mate who is strongly supported by grassroots Christian conservatives. Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee, Bob McDonnell, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio are some of the names he suggested.