Republican presidential candidates focus on economy during conference
Republican presidential candidates tried hard to win over Christian conservatives yesterday, the first day of the two-day Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, which brought together leading and influential Christian conservative lights who can affect the outcome in the selection of the GOP candidate in the 2012 presidential elections.
The men and women who have thrown their hats into the presidential ring talked mostly about economic concerns, while some touched on social issues that are important to the religious right, according to Reuters.
There was a strong emphasis on job generation, debts and deficits, more so as the Labor Department stated that unemployment rate has risen to 9.1 percent last May, Reuters reported.
The focus of discussions showed this year a sharp contrast to previous presidential campaigns where issues on the table were gay marriage and abortion. This time around, Republican hopefuls are focusing on the economy. Mitt Romney said the flailing economy is a “moral crisis,” Reuters said.
Powerful evangelical vote
The conference has attracted most of the Republican presidential hopefuls, in full knowledge that if the Coalition succeeds in reviving the evangelical political voting bloc, it will be a powerful deciding factor in the selection of the GOP nominee, The Washington Post said.
This is why Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have either shown up or plan to, CNN said. Newt Gingrich is sending a video.
Others who addressed the conference are Donald Trump and Haley Barbour. Senator Marco Rubio and TV host Glenn Beck are also planning to speak, according to The Huffington Post.
Some 1,000 people are expected to attend the conference, plus 250 members of media, CNN reported.
The conference was organized by political strategist and Coalition head Ralph Reed, who is described by CNN as an “evangelical whisperer.” Gary Marx, executive director of the Coalition said, “[They] understand that we provide a unique forum to reach out to social conservatives and newly energized Tea Party activists.”
In describing the Coalition, Marx told CNN, “It’s a broader appeal. It’s faith-based activists and Tea Party supporters. It’s really the Christian Coalition on steroids, as Ralph calls it.”
The political landscape is different now, with a younger set of evangelical voters who are not as politically involved and who have different concerns. Also, leaders like Jerry Falwell have passed away, and Pat Robertson is no longer active in Christian politics, The Washington Post said.
But the energy of the Tea Party movement, many members of whom are evangelical Christians, has shown there is potential to reenergize the Evangelical vote into a decisive bloc, The Washington Post said.
In the 2008 elections, 44 percent of Republican voters in the presidential primaries said they are Evangelical Christians. This time around, analysts say it is important that the Coalition is able to align the Tea Party, a large segment of which are evangelicals, as well show that it can be relevant to a new breed of young evangelical voters, The Huffington Post said.
The Coalition is also not as well funded these days, with only $500,000 in revenue posted in its most recent public tax filings. Much of the success of the Coalition will be running on Reed’s past record of success in political strategy and how he will play his hand in forging alliances and in rallying followers, The Huffington Post said.
If Reed succeeds, Evangelicals stand to play a key role to victory in Iowa, which has its primaries in January and tends to set the tone for the 2012 Republican presidential campaign.
Focus on economy
Meanwhile, conservative presidential hopefuls and influencers are giving more attention to the economy than to social issues. Trump, who is not running, said the economy is “a total disaster” and blamed Obama for it, Reuters said.
Others however spent time talking of social matters or proffering conservative credentials. Pawlenty said, “We need to be a nation that turns toward God, not away from God.”
Bachmann stressed her social conservative roots, called for a ban on gay marriage, and got a standing ovation when she said, “We will repeal Obamacare. It will happen,” according to Reuters.
Huntsman, a moderate Republican, said, “I do not believe the Republican Party should focus only on our economic plight, to the neglect of our human plight. That is a trade we should not make. If Republicans ignore life, the deficit that we face is one that is much more destructive,” Reuters reported.
Barbour, who is not running, said, “We’re going to nominate somebody for president that doesn’t agree with you on everything and you’re not going to agree with them on everything. But I’m going to tell you what, they’re going to agree with you on a lot more than you agree with Barack Obama,” according to Reuters.