(Photo: The Christian Post)
Christian author and pollster George Barna recently endorsed former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for president. Barna will head the campaign's “Faith Leaders Coalition,” which is the campaign's outreach to Christian voters.
“It will not be an easy battle for him, but neither will it be easy for the U.S. to regain its way in these challenging times. I believe Newt is the person best poised to lead us into that difficult and uncertain future,” Barna wrote on his Facebook page Jan. 11 when he endorsed Gingrich.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Barna talks more about his decision and what he will be doing for the Gingrich campaign.
CP: Which other candidates were given serious consideration before you decided to endorse Gingrich?
Barna: Perry, Santorum, Gingrich, Romney, Bachmann, and Paul. I have not publicly endorsed a political candidate in more than 25 years so I tried to make sure I did my homework before stepping out on that limb. Having sold the Barna Group several years ago freed me to do this.
The current condition of the nation, the limited time left and knowing we have to get things back on track persuaded me that sitting on the sidelines was not a viable option. While I have great respect and admiration for several of the candidates, Mr. Gingrich emerged, based on my explorations and the data I have available to me, as the "best package," so to speak.
CP: What was your relationship with Gingrich prior to the endorsement? Had you met him? Did you have a personal or professional relationship?
Barna: We've been together several times. A couple of our exchanges related to the book I wrote, Master Leaders, in which Newt is one of the leaders whose views are represented in the book.
We also connected again in Iowa during the pre-caucus season there. Our conversations have revolved mostly around topics of mutual interest, such as leadership, transformation, faith, vision, and strategy. He has also provided me with various documents along the way regarding some of those matters.
CP: What will you be doing as co-chair of his Faith Leaders Coalition?
Barna: I am working with several co-chairmen – including Pastor Jim Garlow, (former) Congressman J.C. Watts, and Mat Staver (founder of Liberty Council) – to interact with the faith community regarding the presidential race. While we know there are several good candidates in the race, we believe that Mr. Gingrich is the best qualified, reflects our values, and is the most likely to defeat Mr. Obama in November.
Among the goals of the coalition are to help Christians understand Speaker Gingrich's strong views about the importance of and means to defending freedom of faith, helping them to know about his positions on social issues that matter so deeply to the Christian community (such as abortion and family), and to enable them to better understand the Speaker's vision for the future of America within its global context.
In practical terms, I will be interacting with Christian leaders, speaking at events, engaging in media exchanges, and making introductions wherever feasible.
CP: Given that you have done extensive research on evangelicals in the United States, and Gingrich's next contest is South Carolina, which has a significant evangelical population, what will be your advice to Gingrich to reach out to those South Carolina evangelicals?
Barna: One of the best campaign documents I have seen, from any of the campaigns, is the draft of his Presidential Commission on Religious Freedom. It articulates how, from day one of his administration, Newt would develop the means for protecting religious freedom in the United States. It is a terrific document, but is not well-known. I hope we can begin to rectify that in South Carolina. Evangelicals will deeply resonate with his ideas and his plan.
Second, stay focused on the issues that matter. Having managed political campaigns in the past, and conducted polling for many others, I know how difficult it is to stay focused on the game plan regardless of what the media and others are seeking from you. He is expert at this, and I would encourage him to continue to demonstrate that skill.
Third, I would suggest that he remain as candid and transparent as possible. We did a conference call with him last week in which he spoke very openly to religious leaders regarding his life, some past choices, and his spiritual and moral perspectives related to those matters. That kind of honest presentation of his failures as well as successes is necessary to maintain people's trust.
He is our best chance to see conservative principles returned to the White House. I hope Christians will better understand all the benefits and abilities he brings to the table in this race.