Only five months after meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his wife Anita, the same group of evangelical heavyweights will once again gather in the Lone Star state to discuss the GOP presidential race and who may or may not earn a blanket endorsement from the group.
An invitation that was sent on Wednesday read in part, “You and your spouse are cordially invited to a private meeting with national conservative leaders of faith at the ranch of Paul and Nancy Pressler near Brenham, Texas with the purpose of attempting to unite and come to a consensus on which Republican presidential candidate to support or which not to support.”
The group of evangelicals includes Don Wildmon, the former chairman of the American Family Association and a supporter of Newt Gingrich, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, and Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson.
“Yes, I received the invitation but I have decided not to attend,” said one prominent conservative leader who asked not to be identified.
“I know what they’re trying to accomplish but I don’t think anything is going to come out of it. There will be lots of discussion about [Rick] Santorum’s candidacy and even some who are going will advocate for [Newt] Gingrich and maybe a few who have holds that Perry can catch a second wind. But I just don’t see the group reaching a consensus,” he added.
With Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announcing today that she is ending her campaign and with Perry’s poor finish in the Iowa caucuses, conservatives are now looking at either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum to mount a viable campaign against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Romney has not courted evangelicals and many are uncomfortable with his Mormon views.
Although he didn’t spend much time in Iowa, Romney defeated Santorum by a razor thin eight-vote margin yesterday in the state's caucuses.
Bob Vander Plaats, the leader of The Family Leader in Iowa, personally endorsed Santorum and at the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses, called on Gingrich to reassess his candidacy, in hopes of mobilizing conservatives to rally behind Santorum.
“If Republicans are going to put up a pro-family conservative against Mitt Romney, some decisions need to be made,” Vander Plaats told reporters at the Santorum victory party in Iowa.
Romney is expected to win New Hampshire, but conservatives are hoping a social conservative can mount a second place challenge and then take the fight to Romney in South Carolina, where more conservatives will head toward the polls.