WASHINGTON – Family Research Council President Tony Perkins urged Republican presidential hopefuls on Tuesday not to hold back their conservative passion. What values voters are looking for in a candidate is an affirmation of social conservative values.
“Conservatives win [elections] when they act like conservatives,” Perkins said to a group of journalists at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He rejected the notion that candidates would lessen their chances of winning if they appealed to social conservatives.
The FRC head spent an hour addressing the values that evangelical Christians look for in a president. He cited a Barna poll from last April, declaring big government issues like healthcare, tax policies, and employment policies to be the top concern for all Americans when choosing a president. Evangelical voters, however, were more likely than their counterparts to list the social issues of poverty and abortion as something that has a “great influence” on their choice of candidate.
The current GOP candidates seem to understand that these traditional, social conservative policies are what drive their voting base. All the Republican candidates take a pro-life stance on abortion; and, all but one candidate (Ron Paul) has taken a pro-traditional marriage stance on homosexuality.
To many evangelical voters, according to Perkins, the big government issues are seen as a deficit of character. That’s why, he said, the FRC is dedicated to rebuilding and strengthening the traditional, average family.
“When the natural family is looked down upon, you’ve got to look up to big government,” he noted.
Perkins declared that the evangelical voting block has not changed its priorities in issues for decades.
“Many claim this means they are out of touch with society,” he stated. “However, I say no. This means that the [evangelical] perspective remains stable. They know what is right and what is wrong and what is moral and immoral. They do not change their priorities to fit social fads.”
Therefore, in order to win not only the primaries but also the general election, Perkins is calling on the GOP candidates to remain pure in their beliefs and policies.
“There’s a saying that goes ‘purity is the enemy of victory.’ That makes for a great sound bite but it’s not necessarily true,” he remarked.
For example, John McCain, the Republican nominee in 2008, was not considered to be a strong or pure conservative candidate. McCain held many so-called liberal social views and as a result was not able to excite the party base. His inability to enthuse the evangelical voter led to his demise as a candidate in the general election.
"Compromise is the companion of losers," Perkins said.
“I don’t think there should be a purity pledge for a candidate,” he also stated, adding that it does not necessarily matter what a candidate voted for in the past. If he or she can now vote for conservative issues and can give a legitimate explanation as to why they changed their policy stance, then the evangelical voters should be happy with that.
“While there should be no purity pledge, there should be a fidelity pledge where a candidate pledges to uphold traditional conservative values in the future.”
Perkins went on to say he believes the GOP field is wide open.
“I used to be an elected official and we had a saying: in politics a lifetime can be a day and a day can be a lifetime.” According to Perkins, this means that there is no conventional wisdom when it comes to knowing what will happen in the game of politics. In the last election cycle, for example, everyone had declared early on that Rudy Giuliani was going to easily be the Republican frontrunner.
“But he sank like a rock,” he noted.
The GOP primary is far from a two-man race, according to Perkins. He wants to see both frontrunners, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, be more outspoken about their socially conservative values.
However, Perkins added that “anyone with a heartbeat” can beat President Obama and win the general election.
“[Obama] is in deep trouble. His social policies have failed, his military policies have failed, his economic policies have failed. The only thing he has succeeded in is dividing this country,” he asserted.
It is "the prayer of a lot of people," he said, "that this president is a one-term president, lest we lose this country forever."
Family Research Council’s legislative advocacy arm, FRC Action, is preparing to draw thousands of conservative voters to Washington, D.C., next month for the Values Voter Summit. The Oct. 7-9 event will feature many of the GOP candidates, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn), businessman Herman Cain, Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former senator Rick Santorum, former speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).