Evangelicals Assert Their Role: The Inevitability of a Zealot GOP VP candidate
Evangelicals are flexing their muscle in the GOP but it will come to naught because none of their favored evangelical candidates can stand on the national stage in the harsh glare of reality. Their inability doesn’t disable the Evangelical candidates in the eyes of the hard core social conservatives who make up 10-20 percent of the GOP base so that makes it inevitable that Mitt Romney will pick one of them as a running mate to pull the Evangelicals to the polls if he wins.
Also a necessity, as Chuck Hurley, the vice president of Family Leader, told the crowd Saturday, is a proclamation of faith from candidates.
“As Noah Webster reminded his generation and as we hope to remind this generation,” he said, “it is alleged that religion and morality are not necessary qualifications for political office. But the scriptures teach a different doctrine. They direct that rulers should be able men, such that fear God.”
The fear among some in the crowd was that their beliefs might not be fully represented by the current field of Republican candidates.
“I hope we have a role that our voices are heard,” said Dennis Rider of Cedar Falls. “That’s the most important thing.”
There’s a concern among some evangelicals that Mitt Romney, who leads Obama in several national polls, won’t pick up that mantle. Romney declined an invitation to attend the forum — another example of his tenuous relationship with evangelicals.
“He’s not the candidate that evangelicals really want,” said Sarah Posner, who edits Religion Dispatches, an online magazine that covers religion, politics and culture.
She said some evangelicals will vote for Romney in the general election, because whatever concerns they have about him are minor next to their desire to keep President Obama from a second term.
But much like John McCain in the 2008 election, she said, Romney may need the help of others to convince evangelicals to vote for him.
“He’s probably thinking about, ‘If I get the nomination, who am I going to pick as a running mate so that these voters will be happy and come out and vote for me?’” she said.
But how much does the evangelical vote matter to Republican candidates? The major issue of the 2012 election so far has been the economy; social issues have taken a back seat.
But Posner said that that may have more to do with campaign strategy than a lack of interest. Take gay marriage, for instance.
“I think they are really trying to pull back from it because they see where the public opinion polls are going on that issue,” she said. “And they don’t really want to have to face it in the general election.”