Evangelical Pastors Divided on Which Republican Presidential Candidate to Support

Evangelical pastors are divided on which of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates to support, the Associated Press reports, a situation that could diminish their influence in selecting a nominee whom the evangelical base could rally behind.

This state of affairs is hardly a surprising one, considering the frequent fluctuations of candidates ascending and descending weekly political polls.

Many will recall that it was only two weeks ago when Texas Gov. Rick Perry was seen as the inevitable choice for the Republican nomination, but then opinion soon shifted to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Currently, businessman Herman Cain seems to have the momentum.

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The Values Voter Summit held last weekend in Washington, D.C., also illustrated a great deal of ambivalence in terms of the preferred candidate for evangelical Christians.

The conference, which annually features a straw poll, declared Rep. Ron Paul the winner of its 2011 referendum, with 37 percent of the votes; Cain followed with 23 percent, while Romney followed in third place with only 4 percent.

Still, the usually powerful evangelical clergy, which exerts tremendous influence over early voting in states, such as Iowa and South Carolina, could face the prospect of having the strength of its imprimatur weakened, which would create an opening for Mitt Romney, a candidate whom many feel would not be focused on a "values-centered" campaign.

This is in contrast to the 2008 campaign in which a candidate like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was the choice for these politically-savvy pastors.

This election cycle is even more urgent for evangelicals, due to concerns over issues like the Iowa Supreme Court's 2009 decision on same-sex marriage, a factor that has contributed to more pastors becoming involved in politics.

Candidate forums like the event being sponsored by The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, on October 22 in Des Moines, will allow evangelicals an opportunity to solidify their choices.

The Associated Press reports that Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul have all accepted invitations to attend. Organizers said Herman Cain had been trying to change his schedule to allow him to appear as well. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich plan to speak at a pastor's conference in Florida two days earlier.

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