In the wake of Senator Rick Santorum’s departure from the presidential race there are signs that some evangelical leaders are refusing to jump on board the Mitt Romney bandwagon and are turning to Congressman Ron Paul instead. The Texas congressman spoke to several thousand people last night at the Will Rogers Auditorium in downtown Fort Worth but met quietly afterward with evangelical leaders.
Why Ron Paul? And why now, when the race is being declared “done” by the main stream media?
“Because you don’t give away your support without getting something in return,” says a former congressman who has been at the heart of the Christian right movement since its beginning. The longer that Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich stay in the race, the more likely that Romney will be forced to take a evangelical conservative as his vice presidential nominee.
Why not turn to Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Catholic who is a former Southern Baptist, with views that resonate with evangelicals?
“If we had to do it over again, we should have gone with Gingrich,” one of Santorum’s supporters told me today. But if we switch to Gingrich now we risk another drop out.” The former Speaker reportedly has debts of $ 4.2 million and has asked the Romney campaign for help in retiring them. Romney reportedly declined.
Meanwhile, the Ron Paul campaign, with cash on hand, has begun airing television ads in Texas and launches another moneybomb this weekend.
“I have one question for you,” one of the ministers reportedly said in the private meeting last night with Dr. Ron Paul, “Are you going to drop out? Or will you stay in all the way to Tampa?”
“I’m in,” the Texan replied.
“That’s all I need to know,” the minister said.
The evangelical community began reaching out to Dr. Paul almost immediately after Senator Rick Santorum dropped out of the presidential race. Yesterday, Pastor Steven Andrew of USA Christian Ministries announced his support of the congressman, calling for a day of prayer and fasting. Andrew released a statement saying that, “After Santorum, Ron Paul is the most God-fearing Presidential candidate [and] the Republican party should endorse him.” Andrew said that “If Republicans don’t give a Christian candidate, Christians should look elsewhere – even to a third party.”
The Christian Wire service ran an article yesterday saying that Christians like the fact that Ron Paul “opposes tyranny, would cut the deficit and is prolife.”
A prominent television evangelist , speaking on the promise of anonymity, says that there was great disappointment in Rick Santorum’s withdrawal from the race. “No one faults a man for being a good father, and dropping out to take care of a child, but it hurts many of us very deeply. We were counting on him to lead our cause.”
Foster Freiss, the Wyoming billionaire who financed the Santorum Super Pac, has publicly said he will now help Mitt Romney.
Meanwhile, evangelical leaders are skeptical of any of their brethren who are now pledging to Romney. “They are trotting out the same old bought and paid for names, Richard Land and Jay Sekulow, and acting like they are new.” A Gingrich supporter who is quite vocal about his disappointment with the Santorum campaign suspects that evangelical leaders who supported Santorum, did so in return for donations to their nonprofit organizations. “They will now try to repeat the same thing with Romney and are already in the news laying the foundation for their appeal. It is appalling.”
But the rank and file evangelicals are not for sale and many seeking an end to the corruption in Washington see Ron Paul, a born again Christian, as their best voice of protest and the best way to force
Romney to deal with them.
Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition and a GOP national committeeman, is dumbfounded that the Romney’s campaign had so far made no effort to reach out to evangelicals.
“The presidential race is likely to be truly competitive,” Mr. Scheffler said, “in about a dozen states, including Iowa, and the Republicans will need to motivate people to volunteer at calling centers and put up signs. I don’t think there’s much room for error.”
Meanwhile, the Ron Paul people continue to fill the vacuum. In Iowa they are helping Scheffler and other Santorum people get re-elected to their positions. They can afford to be generous, they have everything else.
Says Brian Jacobs, a former consultant to Billy Graham and to evangelical leaders such as Kenneth Copeland, “Ron Paul is a born again Christian who is untainted by this corruption that has engulfed Washington. It should be no big surprise that evangelicals are discovering him.”