(Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
A host of prominent Christian leaders, many of whom attended a similar gathering in August at the home of wealthy Texan Paul Pressler, have been summoned once again next weekend to discuss the future of the GOP presidential race and whom they may support. The only problem – several on the invite list are not attending.
Pressler, who is a former Texas legislator, judge and now international lawyer, has been heavily involved in conservative politics since the 1970s and was a leader in the Southern Baptist political movement that helped to propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency in the late 1970s.
In addition to Pressler, others spearheading the meeting include former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, the former chairman of American Family Association, Donald Wildmon, and Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson.
However, The Christian Post has learned that the meeting might be much smaller than the invitation list.
Two prominent leaders of conservative organizations have confirmed they are not attending and several others are expressing concern that nothing substantial or productive will come from the gathering.
“I understand the importance of discussing how we must energize and mobilize our base, but I believe the process of getting behind a consensus candidate will take care of itself. That’s what elections are for,” noted one invitee who asked not to be identified. “I just don’t think we’ll be able to agree on any one candidate at this time.”
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, whose strong showing and near win in Iowa has propelled him to the top of the GOP field, is beginning to shore up the evangelical base now that Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) has dropped her bid for the GOP nomination after a dismal performance in the Iowa caucuses.
That leaves former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who yesterday said he would return to Texas to “reassess” his campaign, but later in the day tweeted that he was eager to get to South Carolina, as the remaining candidates chasing the conservative vote.
“Look, New Hampshire is all Romney,” said the conservative leader. “A strong second place by one of the conservatives would be great, but South Carolina is the key. One of the three (Santorum, Gingrich, Perry) needs to have a decisive win over Romney in order to be able to move to Florida and then Super Tuesday. If not, we’ll crown Romney at the Republican convention in Tampa.”
Still, others are concerned that the meeting looks as if the group is trying to sabotage the Romney campaign.
Not so, says Bauer. “There’s only one person I’m interested in stopping and that’s Barack Obama,” Bauer told Politico on Wednesday.
Richard Viguerie, the chairman of ConservativeHQ.com and a long-time conservative activist, thinks there is still room for yet another conservative to enter the GOP race and that the possibility exists that the GOP nominee will not be determined until the convention later this summer.
“The vast majority of Republican primary voters want to vote for a principled, small government, constitutional conservative,” Viguerie told The Christian Post.
Viguerie also confirmed he was attending the meeting in Texas and was hoping the group would reach a consensus on who to support.
"I've been in this game for a long time – over 50 years – and I'm tired of supporting big government Republicans," he said. "I organized a meeting for Gingrich in December and he was well received, but his campaign failed to follow up after the meeting. Perry did not aggressively court the evangelicals and now it's up to Santorum to see if he wants to rally true conservatives. But there's a huge difference in the nomination process and an election and now is the time for conservatives to rally. We certainly missed that opportunity in 2008."
On Tuesday, the Arizona senator formally endorsed Romney at a midday rally in New Hampshire. Romney and McCain both sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and McCain went on to lose to President Obama in the November general election.
No one knows quite what to expect from the meeting, but Dr. Richard Land, who heads the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, summed it up quite well.
“Whenever conservatives get together, anything is bound to happen.”