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. Ralph Reed is not Christian

    He used the evangelical vote to get money from an Indian Casino for Jack Abramoff. He told candidates to hide their true feelings about issues until they get voted in, thus lying about truth. Candidates who look to this guy for votes, should be wary of the fleas they'll get.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • El Kababa

      Reed was actually working both sides of the street. He took money from Texas Native Americans to work for a casino in Texas and he took money from Louisiana Native Americans to work against the building of the same casino. We're talking millions.

      June 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  2. Dan of The Prophecy Society

    The Scriptures tell us that one cannot serve God and Mammon. Guess its good to have an article exposing the activities of these obvious Mammon-worshippers. They certainly are not serving the God of the Bible.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  3. Busted2010

    This guy is what is wrong w/religion in the US. He uses the name of God and Jesus to convince people how to vote, while straight up ripping them off, like in the Abramoff case

    June 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  4. Joe St Louis

    No worries this is how the middle east got where it is.......we are on our way praise GOD. Remember our nation is young compared to the middle east. Let GOD rule and kill those who don't believe the way we do.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  5. Brian

    God I hate evangelical politics.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  6. GDI

    Anyone kissing his ring can kiss my...

    June 3, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  7. The Doo-dah Man

    But looky here, it showed up this time.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  8. The Doo-dah Man

    Hmmmm...I did say muslim and mosque and zealot and bigot in discussing that the "faith and freedom" conference was solely about Christian faith and their freedoms in spite of the limitations they want placed on the freedoms and faith of Americans who are not christians...we'll see if this one flies.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  9. jrm03063

    America, meet your version of Mullah Omar!

    June 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  10. Yessir

    Rarely are true Christians in the media. They are the ones quietly going about their business, helping others (no matter conservative/liberal) and showing kindness. For that is the way to have someone turn to Christ....to say "wow look how selfless and kind that person is, what does he/she believe in?"

    Althought I don't claim to know anybody's heart, the "Christians" who are polarizing and stand from the rooftops to yell as loud as they can are typically just as corrupt as both republican & democratic candidates. They have only one thing in mind; their self interests.

    Good day folks and I hope you run across the real ones at some point in your life.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  11. vel

    always good to see Christians attack each other trying to claim that they are more Christian than anyone else. Indeed, what would their savior think over all of this pandering to theives and liars, both the evangelicals and the politicians? It's one thing to accept them as sinners, and quite another to laud them as the best Christians out there.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  12. uh...

    Still fail to see the connection between laissez faire capitalism and social conservatism. Can someone elaborate on how these mix and what they have to do with one another?

    June 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  13. concernedwhiteman

    @todd, u are a funny guy but i think your sheet is showing.....did you go to school? do you have any intelligence to speak of? do us all a favor and kill yourself....maybe you and adelina can form your own country together.....or maybe find some black people to lynch?.....i forgot, you're too afraid of them to do it.....idiot

    June 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  14. The Dude

    Why is this guy not in jail? Another disgusting display of theocratic BS by false prophets.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  15. reading the bible and wondering....

    How come Jesus didn't get involved in politics, or endorse one human leader over another?

    June 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  16. David, CA

    Nothin like pandering to a pack of racist, bigot psychotics.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  17. El Kababa

    Fundamentalist and Evangelical leaders are utterly corrupt. The only good Christians in church are all sitting in the pews.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • heerobya

      There is very little that is "Christ like" in most Christians these days.

      Jesus (if he truly did exist) didn't preach in a mega-dome ampitheater – he didn't then and he wouldn't now.

      These millionaires should give all that they make but about 50,000 a year to charities and the needy in their own communities if they were truly Christ like.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  18. Not having it

    Ralph Reed is a criminal who has skirted the laws for years. He is about as Christian as a snake... He has used this religion to fund his lavish lifestyle and he has hoodwinked thousands of good Christians into supporting his anything-but-Christian political policies.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  19. Ed

    Anbother LOOSER that can't get a job so he became a preacher to support his egostical hedionistic self brainwashing people. WAKE UP PEOPLE THIS F'GUY IS ANOTHER SICKO!

    June 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  20. concernedwhiteman

    @adelina, mayb u think slavery shouldnt have ended or u think God gave this land 2 u but i dont think dividing the country is the answer nor would any sane person think so....im a christian white male and i do not share the same belief as u. i bet u believe everything u are told like a gd little sheep.....do the world a favor and just kill yourself....who would be in your "separate but equal" country? all the white people u deem fit? this type of thinking is what starts wars.....idiot

    June 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • David, CA

      "do the world a favor and just kill yourself"

      Wow. How "christian" of you.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:14 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.