Evangelicals Hurry to Find Alternative to Romney
Dismayed by the prospect of Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee, conservative Christian leaders are intensifying discussions about jointly backing an alternative candidate from a field reshaped by Rick Santorum’s strong performance in Iowa.
The plan disclosed this week for dozens of conservative Christian leaders and political strategists to meet in Texas next Friday and Saturday, a week before the South Carolina primary, is the latest of several such efforts in the last six weeks to seek an elusive unity. Among the conveners of next week’s gathering are luminaries of the evangelical movement, including James C. Dobson, the head of Focus on the Family, and Donald E. Wildmon, the retired president of the American Family Association.
Other evangelical leaders are holding discussions and raising the possibility of later meetings if the gathering in Texas does not yield a consensus.
But time is running short. Like evangelical voters, the leaders of the religious right have been divided over which Republican to back, dispersing their support in a way that has helped Mr. Romney and undercut their influence on the nominating process. With Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, in a strong position heading into the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, the leaders said they knew they must move quickly if they wanted to shape the outcome.
In a campaign defined in large part by the conservatives’ intense desire to eject President Obama from the White House, the differences among evangelicals underscore the difficulties Republicans have had in putting aside divisions and getting enthusiastically behind someone they feel embodies their values and can win the election.