A weekend meeting of more than 100 religious Republican activists resulted in a majority of them favoring Rick Santorum’s run for the Republican nomination as a candidate for president. That may or may not do much for Santorum, since it apparently took three ballots for two-thirds of the participants to choose him: according to ABCnews and Breitbart.com, Gingrich, Perry, Santorum, and Paul survived the first ballot, with Santorum and Gingrich getting most support on the second ballot before Santorum garnered 85 of 114 votes.
The gathering reflects how fractured the current Republican base is — and how determined the evangelical conservatives are to derail current leader and presumptive candidate Mitt Romney. For all the talk about Romney’s flip-flopping on the issues, many of them can’t get over the fact that Romney is proud to be a Mormon, and many Christian fundamentalists consider Mormonism to be a cult.
I find it particularly interesting that the gathering did not release a roster of who attended the gathering. While ABCnews described them as “conservative and evangelical leaders” and the Los Angeles Times referred to them as “religious leaders,” Breitbart.com called them “top U.S. evangelical leaders,” and Catholic Online said “150 evangelical Protestant Christian leaders” attended the meeting. Time said the gathering included “125 evangelical leaders.”
But who were those “top evangelical leaders?” Tony Perkins, head of the socially conservative “Family Research Council,” helped organize the meeting and served as its spokesman. According to Time, participants also included Family Research Council president Gary Bauer, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and former American Family Association chairman Don Wildmon, all well-known politicos who want the government to be guided by ultra-conservative Christian values.
Baptists who’ve ever been associated with the Southern Baptist Convention will find it of interest that the meeting took place at former judge Paul Pressler’s Brenham Ranch, near Houston. Pressler, along with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson, was a chief strategist in the political maneuvering that brought fundamentalists to power in the SBC. Secret meetings of powerful people played a major role in that process.
How many of Pressler’s other SBC cronies were in on the anyone-but-Romney summit? Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission was there, according to Robert Parham of EthicsDaily.com, as was Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas convention. You can bet your booties that they weren’t the only ones, but the rest of the roster apparently remains a secret.
The group’s lukewarm third-ballot endorsement of Santorum is unlikely to give him nearly the boost he would need to overcome Romney’s lead, especially when it comes from “influential leaders” who decline to be named.