WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Family Research Council kicked off their annual Values Voter Summit in the nations capitol on Friday with an all-star line of potential GOP presidential candidates and rising political stars attempting to motivate the social base of the conservative movement. But are there enough "values voters" who will vote to make a difference in the 2014 and 2016 elections?
Gauging by the response at the weekend event in Washington, the answer is "yes," albeit the attendees are heavily weighted in their political leanings. The challenge that conservative operatives (or Karl Rove wannabes) must contemplate as they gaze into their crystal balls is can they light a fire under those same types of voters who reside in the nations heartland and are trying to balance a family budget while figuring out how Obamacare might impact their health care cost?
Tony Perkins, the CEO of the Family Research Council and host of the weekend's summit expressed optimism that value voters will show up at the polls in the next two election cycles.
"Yes, I'm confident value voters across this land will flock to the polls if more candidates like Ted Cruz run for office," Perkins told me while shuffling between meetings during the conference. "2008 and 2012 were challenging years but 2010 demonstrated when fiscal conservatives join their social brethren, we can make significant changes in the White House, Congress and state legislatures. The impact of redistricting between '10 and '12 will have a tremendous impact for decades."
Case in point; Cruz won the VVS straw poll with 42 percent of the vote, 29 points above the second place finisher, Dr. Ben Carson.
Perkins has a point with his redistricting comment. State legislatures who moved from blue to red or changed from a lighter shade to a darker shade of red drew district boundaries that will make it increasingly difficult for Democrats to make inroads in Congress or the State House anytime soon. That's a lesson they learned from the Democrats in the 1980's and 90's.
Demographics show us that bright blue states are primarily in the northeast and on the west coast. The only challenge is states like New York, New Jersey and California are more populous than the red states of Mississippi, Montana or Missouri. This is why liberals want to eliminate the Electoral College.
But is the Republican Party apparatus still willing to embrace social conservatives given some Republicans changing attitudes toward gay marriage and abortion?
"You bet they will," said another national evangelical leader who spoke off the record. "I had a conversation with Reince [Priebus] last week and he's starting to understand the fact that the GOP cannot – and I mean has no chance to win without the social conservatives. He knows he has to communicate that to the business types so we can work together. He's on board."
All of the GOP senators addressing the Value Voter Summit such as Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) proclaimed the conservative base of the GOP is alive, well and growing. So what do the numbers say?
RealClear Politics Sean Trende wrote an interesting column in November of 2012 discussing why white voters stayed home in 2012.
In 2008, 98.6 million white voters showed up at the polls compared with 16.3 million blacks (95 percent of whom voted form Obama) and 11 million Hispanics.
Fast-forward to 2012 and about 7 million fewer white voters showed up and a million or so more Hispanics turned out. The percentage of black voters remained steady, although fewer of them voted for Obama a second time; but not enough to matter.
The easy translation is that values voter strategists need to maintain their support with white males while attracting more white females and Hispanic voters. It's the latter that has proved difficult since the more hardcore conservatives insist that illegal immigrants be deported and a 50-foot wall built to secure our borders. It's also put Rubio in a precarious situation given his recent position of advocating a path to citizenship for many illegals.
Maybe the government shutdown will encourage more value voters to show up for the next two major election cycles. Chances are there will be another controversial issue in the coming months that will fire them up. But for Republicans to win value voters must equal of surpass their 2000 and 2010 percentages and recruit more Ted Cruz lookalikes.