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Split GOP presidential endorsements reflect fractured evangelical base
Rick Santorum was endorsed by the head of Iowa's Family Leader on Wednesday.
December 20th, 2011
04:25 PM ET

Split GOP presidential endorsements reflect fractured evangelical base

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - When Newt Gingrich’s campaign announced Tuesday morning that it had won an endorsement from Don Wildmon, president of the evangelical American Family Association, it seemed like one more bit of evidence that the former House speaker has become the unlikely favorite of conservative Christian activists.

But a few hours later, Bob Vander Plaats, president of an influential Iowa evangelical organization called the Family Leader, announced he was throwing his personal support behind Rick Santorum.

The day of split Republican endorsements reflects a Republican religious base that is largely fractured just two weeks before the first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses.

The dynamic could portend trouble for the eventual Republican nominee, raising the prospect of a less than enthusiastic evangelical base in the general election, like Sen. John McCain faced in 2008. It could also mean a diluted evangelical role in choosing a nominee.

“There is certainly a difference among Christian and pro-family leaders in terms of who they will endorse,” says Mat Staver, who leads the Liberty Counsel, a faith-based law and advocacy group. “There hasn’t been any one candidate that a majority of Christian leaders have settled upon.”

“It looked for a while like Rick Perry would be that individual, but as the debates progressed, that’s seemed less likely,” says Staver, who is also dean of the Liberty University School of Law. “I think it’s cause for concern.”

A late November/early December CNN poll of likely Republican caucusgoers found that 31% of born-again Christians in Iowa supported Gingrich, while 19% backed Ron Paul, 12% backed Mitt Romney and 12% backed Perry.

The fractured Christian Right vote seems to echo the 2008 presidential race, when the movement’s leaders split their support among candidates, from McCain to Mike Huckabee to Rudy Giuliani, who won a surprise endorsement from televangelist Pat Robertson.

Since the presidency of George W. Bush, the GOP has struggled to find a national leader who could unite the evangelical and more establishment wings of the party.

Much of the recent evangelical enthusiasm for Gingrich, expressed by leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Staver (Staver is not yet endorsing anyone) is partly a reflection of evangelical angst over Mitt Romney.

Many evangelicals are cool to the former Massachusetts governor because of his past social liberalism on issues like abortion. Some rank-and-file evangelicals also take issue with Romney’s Mormonism, though few evangelical leaders admit to such bias.

Last weekend, an influential California preacher named Jim Garlow e-mailed a 9,000-word letter that praised Gingrich to evangelical pastors across the country.

“A part of my motivation in writing stems from the fact that I have spent much time with him over the past two years,” wrote Garlow, who helped lead the campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California in 2008. “I am particularly concerned hearing people discuss some aspects regarding him about which they know very little.”

The Gingrich-centered letter included sections subtitled “personal issues,” “forgiveness” and “fit for the presidency.”

“I fully acknowledge his marital failures and sins and do not defend them in any way,” Garlow writes in the letter, which he says was sent to 28,000 pastors across the country. “I understand the steps of forgiveness and restoration and believe that Mr. Gingrich has walked, and continues to walk, in them.”

But other evangelical leaders have voiced skepticism of Gingrich, largely over his previous two marriages and his admission of carrying on an affair with his current wife in the late 1990s, when he was still married to his second wife.

Last month, Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief Richard Land wrote an open letter to the former House speaker calling on him to publicly address evangelical concerns.

“Evangelical men are willing to cut you some slack over your turbulent marital history,” Land wrote. “The bad news is that Evangelical women are far less willing to forgive and let bygones be bygones.”

Other evangelical leaders insist that Gingrich has already repented enough. “He’s a different Newt Gingrich than he was in the early 1990s,” says Staver.

Staver says Christian endorsements like the one for Santorum on Tuesday morning from Vander Plaats weaken the evangelical hand in shaping the Gingrich-Romney showdown.

“I like Rick Santorum, but everybody knows he’s not going to win the primary,” Staver says. “It’s an ideological endorsement that throws pragmatism out the window.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (258 Responses)
  1. rick d785

    Hiarious ! More delusional behavior from the religious right . Happy jebus birthday!

    December 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  2. Ricky Bobby

    This is so ridiculous. Let's keep drawing straws!! First it was Perry, then it was Cain, then it was Gingrich, now it's Santorum? Question...is Gingrich expected to maintain his public vow of fidelity (which came at the request of Evangelical church leaders) should he not receive the nomination? How about the Evangelical Church leaders keep their opinions to themselves rather than use their power to influence others to make decisions based on allegiance, rather than using their brains. Other religious denominations seem to be doing a good enough job of that, including leaders of the Mormon faith.

    December 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Julian Torrey

      I find this right wing Evangelical conservitive thing to be a joke. How can any believer in JESUS CHRIST honestly be aRepublican. The Republican party is not for its peope, it is only conerned with protecting the rich. 'An a rich man came to Jesus and asked how he could get to heaven? Jesus replied; sell all that you own and give the profets to the poor. For you cannot serve two GODS.', and money is the god of the rich, not Jesus.

      December 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  3. Primewonk

    George wrote, " Obama's liberal social policies are enough to make one vote against him. He supports abortion, ho.mo.s.e.xuals, and the teaching of evolution, and he opposes prayer in schools. – all counter to the Christian agenda. "

    Point 1 – abortion – Why is it the religious right (oxymoron) cares about a fetus without a brain or heart, yet consistently try to do away with programs to promote health once the fetus is born? Plus, from 2000 to 2006 you folks had the perfect storm – you owned the White house, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court. Why didn't you overturn Roe then? (Hint: because you folks are being played by your political and religious masters. They use issues like this to control you.)

    December 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Dang clumsy fingers –

      Point 2 – gay folks. If you want to spin the mistranlated and mistranscribed verses to mean that gays are icky, so be it. This is plain wrong. Plus, since by folks cannot choose to be gay or straight, how can it be a sin? You cannot choose your orientation anymore than you choose handedness or eye color.

      Point 3 – evolution – Not sure why you have such an issue here. There are 2 billion Christians on earth. 1.8 billion of them – 90% – belong to sects whose position is that there is no problem with a faith in your god, and an understanding that evolution is a fact. It is only amongst the fundiots that we see this issue. And it's only an issue because you purposefully choose to be ignorant.

      Point 4 – Prayer in school. This is an outright lie. Kids can pray all they want in school. You can't have forced prayer, or teacher / administer lead prayer. This is an example of you folks hating the consti tuition.

      Point 3 -

      December 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Julian Torrey

      I agree with you Primewonk. As astudent of the history of religions in this world I found that many of the Churches beliefs about this world and our universe were wrong. Those that are condemming anyone who practices or talks about those issues are judged. But in my Bible there is a passage that says "Judge not less yea shall be judged saith the Lord." I guess those conservitives don't believe in the King James Bible.

      December 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  4. Avser Bastian

    NEW – NOT LIABILITIES OR DISCRIMINATION, BUT INSTEAD ASSASSINATIONS !!!

    http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/ LEARN TRUTH ABOUT EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, UNITED NATIONS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AS WELL AS NEW WORLD ORDER(MULTICULTURALISM = TERRORISM) GOVERNMENTS !!! NOT THERE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, BUT TO DENY YOUR RIGHT TO EXISTENCE !!!

    http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/ ABDUCTIONS / RENDITIONS / BRAIN CHIP IMPLANTS / BLACKLISTING / BLACKBALLING / MK-ULTRA BRAINWASHING against civilian population TODAY / ASSASINATIONS and much more per WHO, WHY, AND HOW !!!

    WHY TO ACCEPT LIABILITIES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED WHEN WE CAN SIMPLY ASSASSINATE OUR VICTIMS(YOU) THANKS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND FREE PRESS/MEDIA(most severe censorship ever !!!) !!?

    COMING NEXT: WHITES ARE NOT WELCOME IN AMERICA ANY LONGER !!! WE DON'T NEED YOU ANY MORE !!!

    OUT OF AMERICA WITH WHITES NOW !!!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xGfYOAydjw&w=640&h=390]
    OR
    http://www.youtube.com/user/BostjanAvsec OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE RECORDED LIVE IN 2009 !!! These are hard facts about lunatic Obama/Bush's twilight zone administrations(HORROR) or genocide against whites per ZIONIST Washington DC and in complete agreement with communist Moscow !!!

    EXILING WHITES WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE AND IMPORTING NON WHITES IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS COMPLETELY FREE.

    THIS NEWS IS RELATED TO WALL-STREET PROTESTS...NOT ANTI WALL-STREET, BUT ANTI WHITES !!!

    ANTI WALL-STREET PROTESTS ARE ALSO KNOWN UNDER ZIONIST "TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP" IN AMERICA FROM HANDS OF WHITE AMERICANS TO SO CALLED "MINORITIES"(COMMUNISM). Wall street protesters are Obama's raise of the planet Apes army which spread from London per Zionist Washington DC and communist Moscow where Mr. SOVIET UNION NUMBER TWO or new Stalin is in place = PUTIN

    ANTI WALL-STREET PROTEST MOVEMENT IS LED BY SO CALLED "ANONYMOUS" !!

    Anonymous !!? REALLY !!?

    NOW TELL ME WHO IS ANONYMOUS IN A POLICE STATE WHERE WE ARE SURVEILLANCED 24/7 !!? WHO !!?

    NOBODY !!! ABSOLUTELY NOBODY IS ANONYMOUS IN A POLICE STATE AND NOR ARE THOSE WHO MADE YOU PROTEST FOR THEIR SAKE OR WHAT MULTICULTURALISM(animal Apartheid) IS !!! http://multiculturalismisterrorism.blogspot.com

    GREEK CRISES !!! We are all Greece...find out who wants to burn not only what is Greece, but is burning our countries for over 66 years now !!! http://burnbabyburnahaha.blogspot.com

    December 21, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  5. Avser Bastian

    NEW – NOT LIABILITIES OR DISCRIMINATION, BUT INSTEAD ASSASSINATIONS !!!

    http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/ LEARN TRUTH ABOUT EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, UNITED NATIONS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AS WELL AS NEW WORLD ORDER(MULTICULTURALISM = TERRORISM) GOVERNMENTS !!!

    NOT THERE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, BUT TO DENY YOUR RIGHT TO EXISTENCE !!! 66 YEARS OF GENOCIDE AGAINST WHITES WORLDWIDE IS NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE !!! STOP THE ANIMAL APARTHEID NOW !!! http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/ <== ABDUCTIONS / RENDITIONS / BRAIN CHIP IMPLANTS / BLACKLISTING / BLACKBALLING / MK-ULTRA BRAINWASHING against civilian population TODAY / ASSASSINATIONS and much more per WHO, WHY, AND HOW !!!

    WHY TO ACCEPT LIABILITIES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED WHEN WE CAN SIMPLY ASSASSINATE OUR VICTIMS(YOU) THANKS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND FREE PRESS/MEDIA(most severe censorship ever !!!) !!

    December 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      LoL

      December 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  6. lunchbreaker

    "fractured evangelical base" Well when youe have hundreds of denominations, what do you expect? Even if you are a Christian you should not want religion in polotics. Just because a candidate is Christian doesn't mean their ideals are even close to yours.

    December 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  7. PASTOR KERNEY THOMAS,JR

    ITS TIME FOR PEOPLE OF FAITH TO RISE UP AND INFLUENCE PUBLIC POLICY FROM A BIBLICAL VIEW POINT- TO COUNTER SECULAR SOCIALISTS.

    December 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      Your time is just about up, "Pastor".

      December 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Louisa Ferre

      um no,.... not everyone in America believes/follows in your God. So what me and mine are supposed to lay down and die, so yours can live a peaceful life. Go to your hell. I will never let you kill the world; I will never let Zion be built, I will stop god kingdom on earth with every breath of my body. I will not let the tyrant Yahweh destroy this world keep god in your home and out of the public, because you and yours are the enemy of earth

      December 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Brad

      I'm a Christian and a socialist. I say IT'S TIME FOR PEOPLE OF FAITH TO RISE UP AND INFLUENCE PUBLIC POLICY FROM A BIBLICAL VIEW POINT (at the ballot box of course).

      December 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Curious

      Are you an enemy of God, "Louisa Ferre"?

      December 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      There is no such thing as an enemy of God.

      I am an enemy of organized religions though, Christianity and Islam in particular.

      Got any questions for me, or do you just want to skip to the whole "you're going to Hell nyah nyah" part?

      December 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Louisa Ferre

      yes,... seriously do I have to spell it out. You would think with all my amazing wit and intellect my name would not be such a dead giveaway, and yet you people still don’t get it….you make my job to easy.
      Louisa Ferre = Lucifer
      Louis cypher =Lucifer
      Sam Yaza = Samyaza = Lucifer
      I got a thing for dime store jokes you know like
      Why was the ketchup red,…because it saw the salad dressing
      Why is 6 afraid of 7, because 7 8 9
      There classic
      Now if I start calling my self
      Hansou Hikari it still means Lucifer

      If any character of a word comes from either “famous rebel” or “light bringer” that’s me fu.cker or if it sounds like Lucifer or Samyaza you can bet it me
      God is an evil tyrant bent on world domination and destruction; I’m the hero standing in Gods way.

      December 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Julian Torrey

      But JESUS CHRIST was a socialist in his time, so why do the conservitive christains attack freedom of choice, because they want to make America into a Theocracy like IRAN.

      December 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  8. Louisa Ferre

    once again still relevant even in 2011
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRO8m7iUlTY&w=640&h=390]

    December 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  9. Louisa Ferre

    spamm time
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2rMnov4Ae8&w=640&h=390]

    December 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      Look, frankly I'd like to see Ron Paul given his chance to go after Obama in the upcoming election, but spamming this tripe isn't helping. If you have a valid opinion, express it in your own words. Otherwise everyone's just going to "report abuse".

      December 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  10. Reality

    Only for the "newbies":

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Newton Leroy Gingrich, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    (The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.)
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    December 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • .........

      For the oldies and anyone with common sense hit report abuse on all reality bull sh it

      December 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • .........

      For anyone with common sense hit report abuse on all reality bull sh it

      December 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  11. Church

    These Rupugnants just don't get it.
    They outright refuse to adhere to the Separation of Church and State.
    Then the Holier than thou crowd puts warmongers in office (BUSH), and up as nominees (McCain).
    I am glad to see the downfall of the Republican Party.
    They have been causing harm to this country for far too long. Good riddance!

    December 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  12. warmesTghosT

    If you read between the lines of this article it basically admits that vast swathes of our electorate are basing their political vote solely on their opinion of which man (sorry no women allowed) is the "truest" Christian. Indeed, not even their own opinion in many cases, but those of influential preachers and pastors. These people are completely ignorant/misinformed by the MSM (including CNN) of what their representatives are actually doing in Congress and the Senate – and the White House.

    Our entire political system has been corrupted by lobbying and corporate interests, and we're swallowing the lie that one side did this or the other did that. It's all an act. They're all getting richer by pitting us against ourselves.

    It's a shame when you vote for someone simply for their faith, particularly when they've so clearly not lead anything close to resembling a "Christian" life.

    I will vote for anyone of any faith who has social and fiscal policies that I mostly agree with. Look at some of these candidates' pasts and ask yourself – have they acted like Christians? Or are they just wolves in sheep's clothing trying to steal your vote?

    Think for yourselves.

    December 21, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • George

      They may be hypocrites, but I have to vote for the one who will best push for the Christian agenda. That for sure is not Obama.

      December 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      I try to stay away from ad hominem attacks, but you make it very difficult, George.

      You're not a Christian anyway, you're the type who'd string Jesus up all over again if he ever dared come back to the world.

      December 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • George

      I am a Christian, and I pray for Jesus' return. I simply stated my political opinion. There was no need to insult me.

      December 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      There is nothing Christ-like about you, George.

      "By their fruits shall ye know them"

      December 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • ThinkAgain

      George, we are not a theocracy; if you want to live where the state dictates what your religious faith is, move to the Middle East. And you also need to bone up on your history and all the atrocities that have been committed in the name of Christ – and then ask yourself why would Christ return when folks did so much harm in his name the first time around?

      December 21, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  13. Vince

    I'm just in love with this Tea Party lately. They've made presidential politics fun to watch again! Keep up the crazy!

    December 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  14. J.W

    I might like for Santorum to win the primary. He would be funny on Saturday Night Live. Andy Samburg does a good impression of him.

    December 21, 2011 at 11:30 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.