While the other GOP presidential candidates are falling all over themselves trying to win the important evangelical leaders of influence, Senator Rand Paul appears to have won the hearts of their youth. What this will mean for the coming Iowa Caucuses, where the Paul campaign has organized the college campuses, remains to be seen.
Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, is one of the most important evangelical leaders in the country. He must keep the peace among the powerful televangelists and thus is meticulously neutral in the 2016 presidential race. But his son, Isaac Johnson, supports Rand Paul.
David Lane, labeled by the New York Times as “something of a stealth weapon for the right” has brokered meetings with evangelical leaders and most of the Republican candidates from Ted Cruz and Ben Carson to Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal. But his daughter, Jillian Lane, supports Rand Paul and works as his press secretary.
James Robison, televangelist, who is perhaps the most politically savvy Christian leader in the country, has met all of the Republican candidates and refused to make a commitment. But his son, James Randall Robison, supports Rand Paul. And recently co-authored a book with him.
When most people think of the Rand Paul youth vote they think of college campuses and young people concerned with criminal justice reform or marijuana or auditing the Federal Reserve not the immorality of government. For the evangelical youth there are additional issues Rand represents. “We have to be worried about the future of liberty and the loss of morality in this country,” says Justin Machacek, an Emmy Award winning evangelical Christian leader of the Neo Libertarian Movement. “Make no mistake, there is corruption in the monetary system and crony capitalism throughout, but few candidates are addressing the deeper issue that government is innately immoral. The Bible says that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Pastors and church leaders have to be concerned that government is taking our liberty and squeezing out morality along with the Spirit of God.”
Brian Jacobs, a former consultant to the Billy Graham Organization and the man who arranged the important public meeting between George W. Bush and Billy Graham in Florida on the eve of the 2000 election, agrees. “Pure religion is caring for the widows and orphans and how does that square with a monetary system that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer? What happened to free enterprise and supply and demand? Now it is all about government created monopolies for a select few. It is theft. It has become a moral crisis. And both Republicans and Democrats are involved. Only Rand Paul offers a solution for this.”
But what about the social issues? What about marriage? Abortion? Jillian Lane says that an older generation of evangelicals are fighting their battles at the Federal level. “If that’s where the battle is waged the evangelicals will lose. The mainstream media will guarantee that. Senator Paul wants to see us deal with these issues at the State level where we can often win.”
Rand Paul’s new book, Our Presidents and Their Prayers, which he co-authored with James Randall Robison, the son of televangelist, James Robison, quotes Founding Fathers who warned that even the best laws could not make a people good. “I want you to be free to do just about anything if you don’t hurt anyone,” Paul recently told a television audience. “But I think society and civilization needs structure. There is a theologian by the name of Os Guinness I like who says ‘that liberty requires restraint, but the only restraint consistent with liberty is self-restraint.’
Says Rand Paul, “I am not saying the government should make good people out of you, but I think it makes it a heck of a lot easier for civilization to exist if you have liberty and virtue.”
Meanwhile, the Rand Paul presidential campaign has more than 300 clubs on university campuses across the nation and they include Christian universities as well as secular. Will it make a difference? College students are notorious for talking loud and not actually voting,” laughs Sydney Hay, a conservative political consultant who ran the Alan Keyes and Duncan Hunter presidential campaigns. “The big difference is that this time, those college kids in Iowa will not be gone for Semester Break. They will be back on campus and they will be able to vote.”
For now, the nation seems transfixed on the Republican front runners in national popularity polls, much as they were on Rudolph Giuliani at this point in 2008 or Herman Cain in 2012. But the first in the nation presidential contest will be the Iowa Caucuses held next January. National popularity polls won’t necessarily translate into delegates to the Republican National Convention. Ask president Giuliani or president Cain. Then, ground game will matter. Then we will see if Rand Paul’s student army makes a splash.