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. jrcnnjr

    Reed is just another reason why you should NOT VOTE for a Republican. I am a Christian, but I am NOT a Religious Fanatic. America, If YOU let them, these Dogmatic and Religious Fanatics are going to DESTROY our country. Fanatic Religious People are one of the PRIMARY reasons why the world is in a perpetual state of Wars/Strife, because it seems they can’t think or act without INJECTING THEIR religion into an issue. Sadly, many of these often holier than thou, self righteous, hypocrites quoting their Religion (ie. Christianity, Catholicism, Muslim, Mormon, etc.) or Religious Book (ie. Bible, Quran, etc.) are often ‘Wolves in sheep clothing’ preying on religion and flock for their selfish Wealth/Greed, Bigotry, Hate, and/or Insecurities. Truly sickening . .

    June 3, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • RAWoD

      I receive many postings from citizens afraid of this country being taken over by Islam. Goot luck Islam - the idiot right is trying to beat you to it. Vote NO on fairy tales. All of them.

      June 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • grif9999

      You are suggesting that the GOP is controlled by religious fanatics. I strongly disagree with you.

      June 5, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  2. Bill from GA

    Memo to Hollywood scriptwriters: The story of political lobbyists Jack Abramoff, Ralph E. Reed, Jr., Grover Norquist and Michael Scanlon on Indian casino gambling would make a GREAT movie!!!

    June 3, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  3. Bill from GA

    "Most evangelicals ...they don't pay attention and they haven't paid attention". That is a real problem with American politics.

    Among reed's exploits, he took lobbying money from one Indian tribe to block gambling casinos by another tribe. The one giving the money was a bunch of businessmen, the other tribe lived in poverty and needed the money for schools and hospitals. This ( I removed a word here that the censors at CNN might have found offensive ) reed is about as Christian as the Ayatollah in Iran.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • MM

      He fits right into the core of the GOP's "Good ole boys club" that is often immersed in corruption. For the past 30 years the crazy Christians have hijacked the Repub party and cost them countless elections. Religion has no place in politics and until the GOP wakes up and realizes that Americans don't want their morals legislated, they will be ghted down by loonies like Reed and Palin. Dems are a pathetic political party and that in itself tells you how far the GOP has fallen!

      June 3, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  4. Maine Liberal

    Faith and Freedom Coalition conference with Donald Trump LOL
    nuf said

    June 3, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  5. Adriana Birmingham, Al

    Ralph Reed? wasn't he already discredited for promoting gambling interests in Georgia or Mississippi and then lying about it?

    June 3, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • allens

      funny how such a sleazy guy is so important to the republicans. if this is not proof of who they are, we are lost as a democracy

      June 3, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  6. fam

    Religion, the opiate of the masses, Reed is just the pusher. Hook more users and your wealth increases, real simple.
    BTW, JC was a LIBERAL! Fed the masses, clothed the naked, suffered the little children to come unto him, healed the sick and lame. Looks like a LIBERAL to me!

    June 3, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  7. ART

    Yes he matters untill they find out he's been diddling little boys

    June 3, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  8. Adelina

    This is the time American Christians should cry for decency and normality in the nation. Independence from the evil secular forces.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  9. The Doo-dah Man

    Do my posts take seeral hours to review because I smell funny or something?

    June 3, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      Cr-p. Something is hanging THIS up, and I don't have time to mess with it, so here's a very short version.
      Don't take it personally Doo Man. They will NEVER be reviewed.The automated program searches for strings of letters. There are no moderators, (except maybe for the "ab-use" bu-tton). Copy your post, paste it into the box, and then look for the offending combo of letters, and separate them by hyphens or an apostrophe, or simply a space.
      For example I can't post the word "ti_tle" with the letters together, (you DO see what's embedded there, right?) but I can post it that way, or by t-i-tle, or ti'tle. Weird, but that's life. Everyone complains about it, and nothing has been done about it so far. I should get permission from the original author/co-mpiler, (hint), of the "naughty" list to re-post it, maybe he will just see this and do it himself. Will check back after a while. Meanwhile, click into your "dirty mind" mode, and look for possibilities.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  10. Linda

    You know, if these Christian extremists want Jesus Christ to be President of the United States of Theocracy, why don't they just freaking say so so I can make plans to move the hell out of the country?

    June 3, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Mike


      June 3, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Mike


      June 3, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  11. nobody special

    No true follower of JC would ever vote republican.

    Those who do are not living by the word of their prophet and have been led astray by the GOP's disgusting relationship with the church.

    The GOP's anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-black, anti-latino (etc.) positions makes it easy for these dumb church-goers to fall in line and actually vote for the devil.

    Ralph Reed is a prime example of this. He's a disgusting, dishonest fraud. $100.00 says he does not believe any of this christian B.S.. If he did, he'd know he's going straight to hell. But he knows there is no such thing.

    Enjoy the $$ while you can Mr. Reed.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ nobody special said, "No true follower of JC would ever vote republican." Hmmm. Judas followed Jesus, didn't he? Oh! But there were those 30 pieces of silver...Now I get it. It's the money...

      June 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  12. Sal

    There are just too many religious freaks in the country from politicians on down to the populace! 

    June 3, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Ralph Reed is the anti-Christ.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  14. larryw

    Ralph Reed is a crook and CNN ignores that fact just like you give that so called journalist know for distortions Briebart air time.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  15. Barking Alien

    The Evangelical's have done a great disservice to the political process. They have rallied the religious nut cases around a few social issues and ignored the really important issues facing our country. Ralph Reed is just the face of these misguided souls. Praise the Lord and pass the ammo.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  16. CSM

    You guys are so funny today:-)

    June 3, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  17. Sal

    And this is just one more reason why I despise religion and the right wing religious freaks! 

    June 3, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  18. edward

    RR is a liar and thief and took the Christian Coalition on a ride. It's all about money people.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  19. Canuck

    When I hear 'faith and freedom' I assume 'hatred and bigotry'. These folks seem to be far removed from the teachings of Christ.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  20. Henry

    And the Evangelical right still has not figured out that it is being had by their handlers? Of course not; they are easily led by an appeal directly from God. I am convinced that the average Evangelical means well but their faith really requires them to give up independent thought. Too bad they are so far gone that they don't realize this.

    Evangelicals – Tea Party – Anti Choice – Anti Obama – Anti Immigrant – Pro Gun - All the same animal.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • ConcernedPerson

      Amen to that. A truly indoctrinated bunch, easily led by anyone saying "jc said so in the bable". Sad! America needs better citizens than these nuts.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • RAWoD

      You forgot idiots.

      June 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • MIJohn

      Oh yeah. Best way to create a mass of people who will do whatever you want even if it's completely stupid – offer them a way to no longer have to think about right and wrong, accept ultimate responsibility for their actions, and have everything reduced to a "right and wrong" world view. In short, claim to be speaking for a higher power and the sheep will flock to you.

      All I can say is thanks for the priests and teachers who tried to teach their students to ask questions and look for answers instead of just regurgitating memorized phrases. So much better (if more work) going through life being the wolf who lives on his own terms instead of the sheep who will happily walk to their own execution.

      June 4, 2011 at 6:29 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.