(Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Lott)
The results of the Iowa caucuses show that evangelical voters are paying close attention to "values issues" and not being swayed by “Christian talk” as they select a 2012 Republican nominee, Christian conservative leaders observed.
Luis Cataldo, director of prayer event The Response, said he was encouraged by presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s strong second place performance in the Iowa caucus this week. He credits Santorum’s comeback to the former Pennsylvania senator’s consistent message.
“He continues to engage abortion, marriage and life in the debate,”Cataldo said.
Iowa, Cataldo said, proves that evangelical voters are coalescing behind candidates who share their values.
Southern Baptist ethicist and Christian Post Executive Editor Richard Land wrote in a Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed that Santorum is “the truest of true social conservatives” and described his near win as a sign that the religious right is “alive and flourishing.”
The Faith and Freedom Coalition Founder and Chairman Ralph Reed also observed that evangelicals have matured in their candidate selection. Rather than supporting candidates who quote Scripture and use Christian buzz phrases, Reed said evangelicals are evaluating candidates’ entire platform.
“Evangelical voters, it turns out, are a more sophisticated bunch, judging candidates on a broad continuum of considerations from their personal faith and character to leadership attributes and electability,” he wrote in CNN op-ed following the Iowa Caucus.
Santorum, a devout Catholic, is an outspoken pro-life advocate who touts his experience fighting partial-birth abortion and ushering in welfare reform during his congressional tenure. Prior to Jan. 3, his support languished near the bottom of national polls. Yet Santorum placed second in the Iowa caucus with the support of 30,007 caucus-goers. Romney won by a slim 30,015 votes.
However, it is remains to be seen if Santorum can pull off a second primary upset in New Hampshire.
Some question if his social conservative message will stick in a state labeled in a 2009 Gallup survey as the second least religious in the United States. But a Friday poll shows Santorum’s New Hampshire support has grown from 8 to 11 percent.
Romney, who has campaigned heavily in New Hampshire, still holds a sizable 40 percent lead in the local poll.
Cataldo and other conservative groups are busily mobilizing evangelical voters, urging them to engage in the presidential elections.
Cataldo organized the prayer event The Response in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 28 days prior to the caucuses. Other Response events are scheduled through the next several months. The event draws Christians of all denominations, politicians and evangelical leaders together to pray for their troubled nation and ways they engage the culture. Cataldo told The Christian Post, that he also hopes attendees will be inspired to vote.
“We are trying to influence the primary race in that the [current] moral climate, the legislation doesn’t reflect the values of the evangelical church,” Cataldo noted.
The Response has successfully drawn big crowds in Texas and Iowa. Cataldo was particularly amazed with the youth which he said attended The Response in droves.
“The media is looking for the hidden secret that is moving all these things. They can’t believe that when there is a clear trumpet sound, people will respond,” he said.
In the 2012 race for a GOP candidate, he said evangelical voters want candidates to speak out about values important to their faith.
“If the candidates continue to sound that trumpet [on those issues] people will engage. People want to hear that trumpet sound,” Cataldo summed.