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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. lawyerpaul

    Adelina, honey, give it up. You can have your imaginary friend. The rest of us can have knowledge, facts, and a world without religious-based hatred and bigotry.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  2. nick2

    Pretty appalling that the Republicans need to pander to autocratic religious organizations in order to muscle-in support. A secular democracy in the US ? Not on your nelly !!!

    June 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  3. dugee

    The christian right is against the liberal agenda because they want to ram their own agenda down everyones' throats. They can't accept and don't care that perhaps other groups don't share their 16th century world views. It is ironic that these same people who promote less government in theirown lives are at the same time designing methods to get more primitive christianity into everyone else's. Why can't christians be more forgiving and less denigrating. Jesus must be so proud right now.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • excitizen

      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.

      As the article says – it's about the money, not morals – it's about using his influence to legislate his idea of morals! Crimminal!

      June 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  4. Jeremy

    Easy to see why America is in the state that they are in. Religion and politics are supposed to be a separte issue, but clearly (at least for the right and the teabaggers) it isn't. These shysters hide behind religion to confuse the sheep in to voting against their own interests.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • TEE

      AMEN

      June 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  5. Adelina (the real one)

    I hope America wakes up and returns to Christ. If not you are doomed to fall.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Friend

      A fake Adelina.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Finger Puppet

      This one seems to be able to spell and use correct grammar. Check.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • lawyerpaul

      Grammar? She should have a comment after "If not." Grammar fail. Imaginary friend fail. Life fail. Sorry, Adelina.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • excitizen

      I'd rather be doomed in your eyes than dumb.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  6. Actually...

    Wow, came back to this site after posting earlier and my previously posted comments are gone. Why am I surprised? Still had hope. The church does need revival but don't throw out all the Christians; do some research and you will find many in this country who are practicing what Jesus taught. For starters: World Vision, Compassion Int., Prison Fellowship, Samaritans Purse, Voice of the Martyrs. We generally do not get the good reports from the mainstream media.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  7. SilverHair

    Evangelicals will be the downfall of the US. They are just nuts.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Adelina (the real one)

      You are wrong, they will save America. America needs Jesus and the laws of the bible.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Actually...

      No, surely some Christians have not walked the talk but there are many who do. It's unfortunate that many have been sidetracked but I have never heard one claim to be perfect. Most of us know we are still human and still in need of Godly transformation but at least we have taken the first step.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Friend

      Above Adelina is a fake.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Adelina (the real one)

      Friend you are a fake and should be ashamed.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • excitizen

      sorry silverhair – the cnn gremlins are out in full force this week – this comment was meant for someone else.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  8. Lenny Pincus

    Twits and dorks have taken over the Republican Party. This guy is a perfect example. And given what the House Republicans are doing with the debt ceiling, I'd say Republicans are no longer an American political party–they represent the interests of multinational corporations and are actually a threat to the United States.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  9. Mattins

    CNN...do you have any editors still working? Jeff Sessions is R-AL, not TX. And the man in the picture doesn't look like Sessions anyway (head is not pointy enough). Now, xcuse me while I go to the bathroom and take a ralph. LOL.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  10. Joan

    There are some Republicans who I'm afraid are "Sunday Morning" Christians. The Bible preaches to love thy neighbour, that God loves ALL his children, do not commit adultery, treat others as you would like to be treated, take care of those less fortunate (remember the Good Samaritan), honour thy father and thy mother (don't take away their Medicare) do not worship false idols ( money and power) and do not bear false witness against they neighbour (that means lying folks). Since most Republican platforms cater to the rich, downplay help to the middle class, ignore human rights issues for gays and many minorities and base a lot of their campaigning on lies and exaggerations, they may have a lot to answer for someday. I guess they don't care as long as they get into power now.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Jed

      Well put, Joan. Those who wrap themselves in the flag or the Bible are often not good examples of what they claim to espouse.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • MIJohn

      "Those who talk the loudest about sin are most likely the ones already up to chins in it and don't want to accept that fact" – something one of the priests in my catechism taught us.

      June 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  11. NVa Native

    Isn't this the guy who was working with Abermoff at scaming American citizens out of money. Another GOPer who dodged jail "some how"?

    June 3, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  12. bigdawg

    I had a class with him at University of Georgia and he was the living embodiment of Uriah Heep and Dick Cheney mixed together by the witches in "MacBeth!" Obsequious and nefarious! An Elmer Gantry of the 21st Century!! BEWARE OF WOLVES IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING!

    June 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Bill from GA

      'Uriah Heep'

      Man, they Rock N Roll. Great Band!!

      Whatever happened to them??

      June 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  13. Thomas

    Why Reed maters ?
    For his influence in regards to Gorge Bush being the worst president this country has ever had !

    Carl Rove with a cross !

    June 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • John Thomas

      Ralph Reed is great. All you are jealous!

      June 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  14. Amunaka

    Evil man...using the name of God...for his own nefarious agenda ...yuck

    June 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Barbara

      "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

      June 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  15. Kodes100

    The Teavangicals are not as powerful or interested in politics as this article leads you to believe.
    The Tea baggers of the Party of tea are on their way out too!
    Republicans are about to be turned totally upside down in the coming months.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • stu

      The problem is, activists vote in primaries, which means candidates have to pander to them. which is why you see extremes on both sides win and then run in the general election

      June 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Adelina (the real one)

      If Americans would just vote with Christ in mind, we wouldn't ahve any problems and be blessed by God.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Friend

      Another fake Adelina. Americans must reform lifestyles, not just change the voting practice.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Finger Puppet

      Friend seems to have a linguistic pattern like (the first) Adelina. Check.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Adelina (the real Christian one)

      Thank you Friend for pointing out the fakes

      June 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  16. Ursus Rexx

    In losing the culture war, the Evngelical crazies have, (almost) managed to take America with them, in the TBF-Avenger-like spiral to the bottom!
    I always wondered why Ralph Reed, friend of, (and alleged co-conspirator with...), Jacl Abramoff wasn't / hasn't (yet) been indicted in connection to that 'Native American casino economics' scandal...
    You know, where he was supposedly taped, (...via law enforcement electronics), saying something like, 'F$#%@ those Indians!', as he laughed, all the way to the bank...pocketing huge fees for his (supposed) failed consultancy...
    The precise details are as clear cut as the JFK assisnation...
    I guess when the Lord is on your side during a (potential) fraud, like Ratzinger & children, (the soon to be eliminated) 'Hate-8', Bishop Long's 'motel relaxation' habits, etc.), who can stand 'gainst ya?
    Gee, I long fer the good ole days, when I could just listen to / laugh at Harrold Camping, as he tell's me how, if I'm in my 'grave, unsaved', I'll be scattered to the four winds this coming Oct.21st.!
    Or Rev. Pat, 'The Weather Forecaster' Robertson's predictions about HIS Deity's use, (of snow), to antogonise the gay community's parental visit / holiday travel plans this past winter, and/or, Fred Phelps 'Pro-Life' support of Islamic I.E.D. builders, Scott Roeder's (Borg-futile) effort to protect the Holy Foetus, the list of comical pronouncements, predictions fatwa's, etc. seems endless, (L.O.L.)!

    Can you imagine the 'Tolerance & Patientence' factor One would require, to merely to put up w/ so much nonsense in One's name? Why...
    You'd ALMOST have to be a 'God' &/or 'Goddess' to endure it!

    June 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • liberal christian

      Wow. Rather lengthy, but an impressive series of bullseyes. Well said!

      June 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • MIJohn

      The feds probably figure it wouldn't be worth the time to indict him. Sure he's guilty as hell but since an attorney can only throw one person off a jury for "no reason" (and sadly religious persuasion creating bias isn't a "good reason") the prosecutors probably figure the odds of getting a jury without at least 2 religious nuts who will cause a mistrial are too poor.

      That or they're giving the proverbial "enough rope to hang himself" and waiting until he pulls off an offense against some other nation so they can extradite him to some place where they'll lock him up and throw away the key for 20 years.

      June 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  17. MM

    Reed is example number one of what is wrong witht he GOP. For 30 years the wingnuts have hijacked the conservative agenda wanting to legislate morals and one behavior in the bedroom. Not only is Reed corrupt AND Crazy, he is a joke. Most Americans are moderate don't care about God, Gays or Guns all the wedge issues that are crowding out real, important issue that effect all of us.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  18. nru

    Lets just admit it and go all the way. Educate our children in christian "madrasa's", and then figure out why the founders of our country (pagans and all) did not like this kind of stuff.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  19. Texas Doc

    This guy does not matter. He is a hypocrite Republican that hides behind his "religion" to confuse peole into voting against their interests. This guy was involved with criminal Jack Abramoff.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  20. abby

    because he can deliver $$$$ and the sheep.....

    June 3, 2011 at 12:04 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.