Conservatives, Evangelicals Urged to 'Galvanize' Support Around Romney

Some 150 top-level conservative Christian leaders are expected to receive in the mail this week a letter urging them to "galvanize support" around presidential hopeful Mitt Romney so former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani "isn't the unintended beneficiary of our divided support among several candidates."

Or, "worse yet," the letter adds, "so we don't abdicate the presidency (and the future of the Supreme Court) over to Hillary Clinton."

The letter, which was published by the New York Times on Wednesday, was written by Mark DeMoss, who has served some of the world's most prominent and effective Christian ministries and enterprises since the founding of faith-based PR firm The DeMoss Group in 1991.

"In about 100 days we will likely have a Republican nominee for president," DeMoss writes at the beginning of his letter to "Conservative & Evangelical Leaders."

"While most people think this election cycle started too early, I'm finding that few people realize the primaries are almost upon us – and how compacted the primary calendar is," he adds.

DeMoss, whose clients include the Rev. Franklin Graham, says he decided over a year ago to help former Massachusetts Gov. Romney after spending months researching his life and his record, and hours with him (and his wife and staff) in his home, his office and on the road.

"I am convinced his values practically mirror my own—values about the sanctity of life, the sacredness of marriage, the importance of the family, character and integrity, free enterprise and smaller government," he writes.

And although he has not been and will not be paid for his efforts, DeMoss says he has worked harder for Romney's campaign than during any past election because he believes the next president is "almost certain" to appoint two to four Supreme Court justices.

He also notes that the next president will have to deal with issues including same-sex "marriage" and abortion. "Do we want that person to be Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney?" DeMoss asks several times to the letter's recipients.

Recently, some of the nation's most politically influential conservative Christians, alarmed by the prospect of a Republican presidential nominee who supports abortion rights, said they were considering backing a third-party candidate.

"We're very, very concerned about the implications of a Hillary Clinton presidency," said Dr. James Dobson, who attended the meeting of more than 40 Christian conservatives late last month in Salt Lake City.

"[B]ut you know, we have been working … for 35 years, I've been trying to defend the unborn child," Dobson said on Fox's Hannity & Colmes show Monday. "That's been my life. That's been my belief, along with marriage and the family and the other things. I can't now abandon that because we've got two bad choices here."

Dobson is not yet participating in any planning for a third party, said Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Focus on the Family Action, according to The Associated Press. But Dobson has expressed in the past that he wouldn't support Giuliani.

The possibility of a third party candidate is one of the growing concerns DeMoss says he has as the final stretch of the nominating process approaches.

"While I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. James Dobson that not having a pro-life nominee of either major party presents an unacceptable predicament, I would rather work hard to ensure we do nominate a pro-life candidate than to launch an 11th-hour third party campaign," he writes.

In regards to Romney's "conversion" on the abortion issue, which some conservatives have doubted the authenticity of, DeMoss defended the former governor, stating that he "always thought the pro-life movement existed for the purpose of influencing hearts and mind on the issue of life, and historically, we have celebrated converts to our side."

"We embraced Ronald Reagan (who signed a liberal abortion law as governor of California), Norma McCorvey ("Jane Roe"), and others—and I am prepared to accept and embrace Mitt Romney," DeMoss writes.

In his letter, dated Tuesday, DeMoss also addresses one of the biggest concerns surrounding Romney that has prompted many evangelicals to keep their distance – the presidential hopeful's Mormon faith.

"Now, I fully recognize some evangelicals take issue with me for supporting a Mormon for the office of president, and I respect their concerns. Indeed, I had to deal with the same concerns in my own heart before offering to help Gov. Romney," he confesses.

"But I concluded that I am more concerned that a candidate shares my values than he shares my theology."

DeMoss's sentiments mirror those of other Christian conservatives including Southern Baptists leaders Dr. Richard Land and Dr. R. Albert Mohler, who have affirmed Mormonism as "false" and "antithetical to historic orthodox Christianity," but also acknowledged that they are not voting for a "pastor in chief" or a theologian.

"I am wholeheartedly convinced that Mitt Romney can be trusted to uphold the values and principles most important to me as a political conservative and an evangelical Christian," DeMoss continues, as he nears the end of his five-page letter.

In closing, the self-described Southern Baptist evangelical and political conservative urges the recipients of the letter to pray fervently for the upcoming election, to follow the news and the primary calendar, encourage others to vote, encourage others to support the candidate who best represents their values and not just their theology, and galvanize support around Romney.

"I believe we can make a difference—the difference in this election," DeMoss states.

According the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll, white men, conservatives, evangelicals and other pivotal blocs are still divided among the Republican Party's leading contenders for president, leaving the race for the 2008 GOP nomination highly fluid.

The poll showed the contest remains a virtual tie between Giuliani at 27 percent and Fred Thompson, the actor and former senator from Tennessee, at 23 percent. Not far behind are Sen. John McCain of Arizona at 13 percent and Romney at 11 percent. About 18 percent of Republicans, meanwhile, did not back a candidate.

In contrast, New York Sen. Clinton has a clear, across-the-board lead in the Democratic race over Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois by 46 percent to 25 percent, a margin notably wider than the one she has enjoyed for months. Lagging behind was former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina at 9 percent.