One of the disadvantages of being the front-runner in a political race is that you become an easy target. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has found himself in such a position as his GOP opponents and various special interest groups have turned up the heat ahead of the South Carolina primary, including a retired U.S. Navy chaplain.
“I have no respect for Mitt Romney,” said retired Chaplain James Klingenschmitt.
Klingenschmitt makes clear that his differences with Romney’s candidacy have nothing to do with Romney’s faith and the fact that the former Massachusetts governor is a Mormon.
“I have worked extensively with Mormons on a number of pro-family and social issues and we are always on the same page,” he noted. “It comes down to policy and political issues; not theological issues. Mitt Romney would make a poor president for the simple reason he is not committed to supporting traditional marriage, pro-life issues and has not demonstrated he is a fiscal conservative. That’s why he hasn’t earned my confidence or trust.”
The retired Navy officer, who now runs The Pray in Jesus Name Project, a group whose mission is to petition Congress and various government entities on religious freedom issues, is not afraid to express his concerns about the direction of the GOP presidential primary.
“Most military personnel are deeply concerned about the future of our country – from both a social and fiscal perspective,” Klingenschmitt noted. “From my observation, I believe the majority of active duty and retired personnel cast their vote for president more on social issues that fiscal ones. That’s because Obama’s social policies are having a major impact our military.”
The Pray in Jesus Name Project conducted an online straw poll of the Republican presidential primary. Taking into account the opinion of many evangelicals, despite being far from scientific, the results showed that those candidates who have strong evangelical ties received the majority of the support of those who voted.
Finishing at the top of the pack was former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 41 percent, followed by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich with 22 percent and Ron Paul with 12 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has seen his stock drop in national polls, drew 8 percent of those who voted.
“Neither I nor the project is endorsing anyone, but I believe Sen. Santorum is an excellent candidate, but he has a tall hill to climb,” said Klingenschmitt. “He seems to have a strong commitment to the church and to social issues.”
Like Santorum, Gingrich has flirted with the evangelical vote but according to Klingenschmitt, has never “taken hold.”
“I like Newt Gingrich. I would support his candidacy if he was the nominee but he and his campaign haven’t done a good job of reaching out to pastors in my opinion. I think that has hurt his candidacy in many of the more socially conservative states.”
Klingenschmitt is hopeful that Santorum and Gingrich will stay competitive for the next three months. “If this race ends in South Carolina it will not be good for our country or our military. Americans need to really listen to what all of these candidates are saying.”