Why Ralph Reed matters
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) (L) exchanges contact information with conservative leader Ralph Reed during the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.
June 3rd, 2011
07:09 AM ET

Why Ralph Reed matters

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - On Friday and Saturday, just about every Republican hoping for a shot at the GOP nomination for president will metaphorically kiss the ring of Ralph Reed and schmooze his conference crowd.

The political powerhouse is throwing the event of the moment in Washington, DC - the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference.

Among those pondering or having acknowledged presidential aspirations: Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum are all scheduled to take the stage and address the 1,000 conference attendees and 250 credentialed members of the media. Newt Gingrich, who spoke last year, is sending in a video.

They will be joined by Donald Trump, Glenn Beck and Marco Rubio on the speakers schedule. It is a veritable who's who of Republican presidential contenders and conservative political power players.

They are all coming because Reed is known as an evangelical whisperer.

Despite a Washington beltway money scandal that could have derailed his career, Reed is once again riding high - and potential candidates know it. "(They) understand that we provide a unique forum to reach out to social conservatives and newly energized Tea Party Activists," Gary Marx the Faith and Freedom Coalition's new executive director said on the eve of the conference.

It's a group that's been called "Teavangelicals" and shows that Reed is trying to widen his reach. "It's a broader appeal. It's faith-based activists and Tea Party supporters. It's really the Christian Coalition on steroids, as Ralph calls it," Marx said.

Reed was tapped by Pat Robertson to head the Christian Coalition when he was age 29. He was the right man for the job and quickly became the smiling face of the grass roots Christian right, and was known for getting voters to the polls.

"Ralph invented the game and how to play the game. He's got a PhD in political science," said Dr Richard Land the head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Church, the nation's largest Protestant denomination with 16 million members.

"He's one of them. He's an evangelical. He understands the evangelical and the conservative Catholic positions. He understand what rings their chimes and what doesn't."

"Any time Ralph Reed is involved in something it's going to make a difference. If I were running for office the very first thing i would do is hire Ralph as a consultant," Land said. "Ralph knows how to do this."

Land points to the group flexing their political muscle in the Virginia gubernatorial race in November 2009. "When (Reed) started the Faith and Freedom Coalition, they contacted 700,000 evangelical households in Virginia and McDonnell (the Republican candidate) ended up winning. That's households not individuals, so you're talking more than one vote a household in many cases."

Land will also be speaking at the conference. He sees the importance of speaking to Reed's core constituency. "For me the take away is I get a chance to inform activists and people who are going to be making a difference, envelope stuffing and ringing doorbells. That's an important thing."

"The people I spoke to were extremely activist oriented and had the ability to open their checkbooks," Erick Erickson a CNN contributor and editor of Redstate.com said of last year's conference where he was a featured speaker "It's no CPAC. It is not the Values Voters Summit. But it's still influential."

"I think Ralph Reed remains so influential because of habit," Erickson said. "He's always been the guy politicians go to to reach out to grass roots. He still has a lot of street cred with evangelicals."

And Erickson said the potential candidates are hoping to capture some of the same credibility.

"In my mind, I hate to be so cynical, I think the one word is 'Iowa.' The other three words are 'also South Carolina,' " he said.

"If you don't have evangelical street cred, you're not going to win Iowa."

In 2005, Reed could have lost all his street creed. He tried to move from the smoke-filled back rooms to the front of the podium when he ran for lieutenant governor in Georgia, where he had been running the state GOP party after leaving the Christian Coalition. At the time, he was connected through a trail of e-mails to Jack Abramoff.

It was revealed Reed had taken millions of dollars from Indian casinos to help lobby against a state lottery in Alabama. The move was viewed as hypocritical for Reed, who was openly anti-gambling. Abramoff ended up going to prison for his transgressions, but Reed faced no criminal charges.

"Most grass roots voters haven't paid attention to that," Erickson said. "The bulk of it is they don't pay attention and they haven't paid attention. The Jack Abramoff story was a big story in a lot of newspapers, but the Ralph Reed connection wasn't."

"Most evangelicals who know about it, view Ralph as a victim and that he was victimized by Abramoff like so many others," Land said adding, "Conservatives don't have any problem with people making money."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • DC • Politics • United States

soundoff (493 Responses)
  1. Nora, Australia

    Whatever happened to the Enlightenment? I'm glad I'm not in the US, this is actually quite scary to see how little separation of Church and State you have over there.

    June 4, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • scoto

      Your right. I live here and its become very scary. A bigger problem is that there is no separation of DOPES and state. Thats evident from the Republican Presidential "candidates"

      June 4, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • BADGUY

      Prayer over door of RNC HDQTRS: "Defend us o lord against the wickedness and snares of Nancy Pelosi and all the other evil liberals that roam about the world bank seeking the ruin of entrepreneurial souls. Be our protector against those who would repeal the Bush tax cuts. Grant us peace (of the action) o Lord and as it was in the beginning of the 20th century, and as it will be again, grant us government of the Rich, by the Rich, FOR the Rich, forever and ever. Amen!

      June 4, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • MIJohn

      It got thrown out the door around 1980 because the Republican power-brokers figured they could win more elections by appealing to a tiny fraction of the population who can be told to vote the "right way" in every election than appealing the majority who only vote sporadically. Before that it was going strong until the various revival movements in the 1800s, then we had a resurgence of rational though from about 1930s to the last 1970s.

      Pretty good reason to make voting mandatory in my book. If 80% of all the eligible voters for every election turned out these goons would be reduced to holding a few local and state offices. Then appealing to this sort of extremist would not only fire up their opposition but also send the moderates in the middle scurrying to the other side.

      June 4, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  2. Pwayne

    Ralph Reed , Psycho Michelle Bachman, Donald Trump, Glenn Beck.....if these are your heroes....you're in trouble. I can't think of a more inept group of people than these.....top of the list...the moron.....Sarah Palin.

    June 4, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  3. Reality

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, 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 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. (may it 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.)

    (Currently, a perfect birth control barrier system does not exist. Time to develop one! In the meantime, mono-ma-sturbation or mutual ma-sturbation are highly recommended for hete-rose-xuals who need a contraceptive. Abstinence is another best-solution but obviously the se-x drive typically vitiates this option although being biological would it not be able to develop a drug to temporarily eliminate said drive?)

    June 4, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • BADGUY

      I think most Americans are anti-abortion. Who wants to see a potential mother go through a possible trauma due to an abortion? But....we differ on whether the state can disallow a women's choice. It's one thing to lay out reasons why a women should consider not having an abortion. It's quite another to legislate to make it illegal. The abortion question is now a tool used by politicos to shift voter focus from their economic rights and well being to and issue which does not affect the fortunes of the politician using the abortion issue.

      June 4, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  4. Byrd

    Why does Reed matter to the GOP? Wild guess here. Because they're idiots?

    June 4, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  5. Brian McNamara

    Ralph Reed is the same guy who took money from one Indian tribe to stab another Inidan tribe in the back. Is this the action of a Christian or an example of freedom or faith? No, its the action of a criminal and an example of greed and opportunism.

    June 4, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  6. BobM

    "Faith" and "Freedom" are mutually exclusive words. Faith jams you into a mold of what you have to be, how you have to act, what you have to say, who you can call friends, in order to be considered acceptable in the eyes of the faithful. Stray from that "straight and narrow path," and you are considered evil and un-American. Ralph Reed and his ilk want to force their way of life on the rest of us. It's not the Muslims and Sharia Law we should fear, it's the Christians and their Biblical Law that should terrify us: They not only WANT to impose it, they think it's their RIGHT to.

    June 4, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Buzz


      June 4, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  7. allanhowls

    Ralph Reed opposes everything America stands for.
    He wants to run the country based on his interpretation of what a fictional invisible man said.

    June 4, 2011 at 7:26 am |
  8. duke13

    Ralph Reed's 15 minutes of fame were over when he lost the race for Lt. Governor of Georgia.

    June 4, 2011 at 6:58 am |
  9. Jack

    Crooks with a bible in their hand are still crooks!

    June 4, 2011 at 6:23 am |
    • Buzz

      These aren't ordinary crooks. They are faith based crooks; American Taliban, far more dangerous and just as vicious.

      June 4, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  10. Eric

    Please don't bring back Bible Law. I need to work on Sundays and I do no want to be stoned to death in front of my frineds and family for doing so.

    June 4, 2011 at 3:54 am |
  11. yep

    Proves the GOP is only about Christian conservatism. If you are anything else, you are an enemy.

    June 4, 2011 at 2:25 am |
  12. SNAPPA

    How do you elevate a hate group in the United States to a status like this? The only reasaon Reed is in the position he is today was because of his bigotry, America is truly a wonderous place.

    June 4, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  13. Sir Craig

    Ralph Reed matters to the media and no one else. If the media ignored this little troll and his sideshow he would evaporate.

    June 4, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  14. Thinker

    Ralph Reed is a dishonest little creep. He needs to take his phoney religion and all of his phoney poiticitians and walk off the cliff they are trying to shove this country.

    June 4, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  15. rob

    Santorum's and Ralph Reed's mothers should have had abortions. Is it too late to abort these morons in the 150th trimester? They're so feeble they have to try to grab some semblance of power any way they can, so they try to control a woman's body. If I was a woman, I'd get pregnant and have an abortion just to annoy them. I love that that they think they're going to heaven for doing all this. Meanwhile they preach such hate, they're going straight to hell (which I'm guessing is going to look an awful lot like a Republican Convention).

    June 4, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  16. Whip It


    June 4, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  17. Buzz

    Just what America needs, a bunch of bible thumpers on steroids. Faith based, non-thinking robots who conveniently ignore evidence of Reed's crooked dealngs with Abraoff are just another group of terrorists threatening freedom in America. As the world moves toward personal freedom, our "leaders" continue to move away from it. Once this theocracy is in place, America will be just another Iran.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  18. gfm975

    Didn't Ralph beign as a Klansmen?

    June 4, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  19. chris

    forget Obama and his wacked out liberal religious connections. this will always be about liberal media attacking the right.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Sir Craig

      Citation? Or simple knee-jerk reactionary comment?

      June 4, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • BADGUY

      I think you're at the wrong address. This is liberal media, not right-wing media. Try "f-o-x-n-e-w-s-.-c.o.m". Just down the street....to the right.

      June 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  20. CM

    Ralph Reed and his ilk deserve the same treatment from the left that MLK, JFK, and RFK got from the right.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
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About this blog

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.