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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. JOE MALOk

    I laugh when I read the stupid Obama Bin Ladin liberal comments! Get ready for Obama to go where he's from – the islamist left middle East, NOT AMERICA. GOOD RIDDANCE! The WORST president in history. THE "EMPTY SUIT" – Obama Bin Laden

    June 5, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Pam Ellis

      Joe, can you make any less sense?
      Also, you are off topic and while Palin likes to use word salad, it is really not the preferred method of communication for mast people.

      June 5, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  2. dvdmc16

    Doogie Reed will turn the GOP into a tiny splinter party that appeals only to narrow people like him exclusively. Read what crackpots and others in the religion business did to the Republicans in the 1936 election. They are over-inflated egotists who think politics hangs on their every word. Religionists like this should have their own publication called 'Hustler'.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  3. Pam Ellis

    I can't wait to hear what Donald Trump talks about. If he uses the bible for anything other than to wedge under a wobbly table, I would be surprised.

    June 5, 2011 at 5:37 am |
  4. atoliit

    Ralph "Greed" Who......

    June 5, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  5. atoliit

    Line up Repugs and kiss his a....and beg him to pray for forgiveness of your sins against the middle class Americans....

    June 5, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  6. Ron San Bruno, Ca

    If you believe in such stuff,ralphie reed is the anti christ you hear tell about. He has had many meetings with damien and his hordes of dalmatians.One day he will sit at the left side of his father on air force one.

    June 4, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  7. blf83

    That Ralph Reed matters to anyone is shameful. He's in the biz only for himself – willing to take down anyone who doesn't play his and "The Family's" games. No thank you!! He's neither Christian nor right – just a self-serving bigot.

    June 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • The Rev'd Fr. Raymond Burgoon-Clark

      Just so. The wages of sin are out of this world in the reich-wing (sic) anti-Christian "teavangelist" movement.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  8. Dzerres

    "I was a victim" Boy where have I heard that before? Oh, yes, other conservative criminals: Ted Haggert, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and the list goes on. I just wish Jesus would come back and kick these conservative "christian's" *sses.

    June 4, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  9. libfreak48

    Nice fodder for Democrats which they should take advantage of, courtesy of the 'any corruption is good corruption' GOP crowd.

    June 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  10. Greg Kells

    To the liberals who are mistakenly assuming that the Christian Coalition is representative of the conservative ideology. You may want to read up on what conservatism really is. I am very conservative politically, I am pro-choice, and a lifelong atheist. Conservatism has absolutely nothing to do with your religion or social beliefs. Barry Goldwater warned the GOP about the danger of groups like this when they started emerging, and he was %100 right. Now it seems that the Neo-Con Evangelicals have become so vocal and pervasive that they are being confused with actual conservatives. Conservatism is exactly what it sounds like, it means quite simply using the minimal amount of government needed to function. It means a belief in fewer; regulations, federal laws, federal programs, foreign intervention, and government infringements. A true conservative may hold strong beliefs on social issues like gay marriage, and abortion, but they shouldn't presume the federal government has a right to legislate them. The Christian Coalition and other similar social conservatives are NOT representative of true conservatism.

    June 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Veritas

      Actually, you may want to tell conservatives this. They are the ones rushing to embrace the Religious Right (which is neither) and advocating a bigger, corporate government for America. These are what the conservatives of today are all about.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  11. Powersoak

    This man is too low to kick and too wet to step on. He is slime and living proof that religion is truly the last refuge of scoundrels. I don't understand why Christians are drawn to this type of person.

    June 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  12. dave_in_altmar

    Pretty clear the "conservative" mantra is "Hypocrites R Us". Sheesh...

    June 4, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Greg Kells

      First off, the Christian coalition represents a small (albeit influential) group of conservatives. Many conservatives, myself included, do not believe the socially conservative Christian coalition, the Tea Party, or the bulk of the GOP are representative of true conservatism. Personally I am a socially liberal Atheist, so they represent almost nothing of my politically conservative ideology. Secondly, liberals are equally guilty of hypocritical actions. saying one thing and doing another is as much a part of both parties politics as accepting exorbitant campaign donations from special interest groups. To believe that either ideology is inherently more hypocritical or corrupt than the other is just short sighted.

      June 4, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Larry L

      I appreciate the comments from Greg Kells. The first politician I supported was Barry Goldwater – a compassionate conservative. Since that time I've seen the word come to mean something far different. I associate conservatives of today with racism, religioius bigotry, and a sort of backward philosopy – trying to return to the "good ole' days" that never really happened. Modern conservatives talk about fiscal responsibility but wallow in the same pork as the people they call liberals. The conservative pork just has different winners. I agree with the writer in that social engineering is not the same as as conservative approach to government. Still, today's conservative defines the parameters of the term as it's now used.

      June 4, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  13. Argle Bargle

    Sorry, CNN...it should have been:

    "On Friday and Saturday, just about every Republican hoping for a shot at the GOP nomination for president will metaphorically kiss the backside of Ralph Reed and schmooze his conference crowd."

    June 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  14. Argle Bargle

    Holy crap...is this schmuck still around? Did he inherit the mantle of God from Jerry Falwell? (cough, cough)

    June 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • blf83

      They postponed Falwell's funeral for a week in the hope that he would rise on the third day – but at 400+ pounds, even "miracles" are difficult.

      June 4, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  15. Lenny Pincus

    What is funny is how informed people are about low life like Ralph Reed, actually more informed than CNN. Another fine example of how conservatives are anti-American.

    June 4, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  16. drknowsbest

    Teavangelicals scare me. Make this bad man go away

    June 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • RAWoD

      I think you meant "men".

      June 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  17. Ronald

    KEEP RELIGION OUT OF GOVERNMENT!

    June 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Mavent

      That's about as likely as you learning to turn off the Caps Lock.

      June 4, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • CAPSLOCKWHERE

      HOW DO YOU TURN OFF THE CAPS LOCK? WHERE IS IT? I DON"T EVEN HAVE A KEY FOR IT OMG WHAT DO I DO NOW?

      June 4, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  18. phoenix starr

    Wow I am amazed by the lack of facts you guys are spewing while no one should ever come off as self-righteous, because the best of us have feet of clay, I wonder where you're being educated. Politics is what it is,I wish I knew what the word is for "accusing others what you are guilty of" because this is what I'm hearing. Did you know that after Obama did his obligatory "duties" on Memorial Day, he went and played golf? Compare how many times he has done this compared to Bush when he was in office, who after hearing the complaint he seemed to be playing too much, STOPPED! Compare the criminal acts of democrats vs republicans. 'Nuff said!

    June 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Hendronicus

      What has any of that got to do with this story? I think you are a very sad person.

      June 4, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • blf83

      Please recall that Shrub took more vacation days than any other president in our history before you begrudge a golf game.

      June 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  19. Fix in TX

    Did anyone else read ~ I believe it was on CNN ~ when Trump was bring up Obama's birth certificate issues that Michelle Bachmann is not even a US citizen? She is Canadian! I guess that doesn't matter anymore!

    June 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Kevin

      When did Waterloo, Iowa (Bachmann" birthplace) become a part of Canada? It is going to upset a lot of people in Iowa to find out they are Canadian.

      June 4, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  20. 21k

    funny, during WWII, gawd-da had to rely on fdr, a slimy democrat, to get us involved in the war thru lend-lease. the gop in congress wanted to remain isolationist. if we left it up to the repugs, the Holocaust would have not been stopped. not saying much for this supreme being that was powerful enough to create the entire universe from nothing.

    June 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Veritas

      Your understanding of s Supreme Being is very 2 dimensional and immature. If you think that because evil exists it negates or diminishes God, then you have shown that you are not capable of thinking past the immediate and the obvious. In a way the existance of evil is evidence that we have a God who loves us. If there is a God, then he must love us unconditionally. However, if he were the only one who could determine under what conditions that he loved us then it would not be unconditional love. So, he must allow human beings to have a choice – to choose Him or reject Him. In rejecting him and his love, human beings invite evil into the world. Evil is the evidence that God gave us a choice in choosing or rejecting him which then allowed him to love us unconditionally. God has nothing to do with evil such as the holocaust. It is human beings choosing to do things that God does not want us to do, but must allow us the option of doing so that we can freely choose Him and He can unconditionally love us.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:17 am |
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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.