Are Evangelicals Losing Sway Over Republican Presidential Race?

Social conservatives are successfully influencing GOP presidential candidates despite the fact they haven’t settled on a single favorite yet, a conservative analyst asserted.

Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at Family Research Council, told The Christian Post social conservatives are controlling the tone of the debate. Evangelical leaders and lobbyist groups have influenced candidates to discuss issues such as religious freedom, traditional marriage and anti-abortion legislation in a race believed to be hinged on fiscal conservatism, McClusky pointed out.

“Mitt Romney, who really hasn’t been talking about social conservative issues, all of a sudden [is] talking about it a lot, and signing certain pledges. Newt Gingrich is signing just about any pledge put in front of him. And even Ron Paul, who has a questionable social conservative record … he’s even talking about social issues in the state of Iowa,” he said.

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A recent Pew survey shows the number of religious lobbying and advocacy organizations in Washington, D.C., such as FRC, has increased from fewer than 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today. Many of these lobbyist groups, McClusky said, are traveling to key states such as Iowa, mobilizing local pastors and evangelicals.

However, local faith leaders are torn over which of the eight Republican presidential candidates they should support even as the Iowa caucus is less than three weeks away.

This week, eight Iowan pastors and Christian conservative leaders held a press conference to support Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for president.

Danny Carroll, a former Iowa state legislator, was among the group, and told the Des Moines Register, “We have determined that Michele Bachmann is biblically-qualified to be the president, to be a leader. She is capable. She is trustworthy. She fears God and she hates dishonest gain.”

The previous week in Sioux City, Iowa, the Rev. Cary Gordon endorsed Rick Santorum in a text message that went out to 788,000 cell phones.

However, neither candidate is a top contender in Iowa polls. In fact, Public Policy Polling shows Iowans strongly favoring former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the GOP nominee.

McClusky said social conservative lobbyists are mobilizing local evangelicals around social issues, not candidates. As a result, he says, local leaders are out talking about the issues and who could best embody them.

In the end, McClusky acknowledged, “The guy at the top of the ticket for the Republicans, I mean to be honest, might not be somebody who is everyone’s cup of tea.”

But he said evangelicals understand that if a Republican candidate makes it to the White House in 2012, he or she will be friendlier to social conservative issues than Barack Obama.

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