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. Scary

    From the statements made in this article, they would imply that the Evangelicals are holding the US hostage. Stating that no one will pass Iowa without the religeous vote is preventing a free election. This should be considered voter tampering since they will prevent anyone they dont like from being able to make it to the ballot. Why is this legal! Is this not an exact example of infusing religion into government when they say "if the evangelicals and catholics in one state dont like you, you wont get to run!" I am sure this is not the "Separation of church and state" the founding fathers intended. Nor is it a healthy approach to leadership of the "free" nation.

    June 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  2. Mikey

    I don't get the obsession in the US with your politicians' personal beliefs. I have no idea what religion the Prime Minister of Canada even is. I know he is a Christian but that's about it. It is not something we focus on, thank goodness.

    June 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • janetlaw

      Lucky you.....if only!

      June 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  3. Yessir

    "The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good" – Psalm 14:1

    June 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Yessir

      Atheism isn't new folks.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Scary

      And the Bible is pure Fiction

      June 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Yessir

      @Scary – Really? And I'm sure you're a historian who has researched everything within it, not just someone who wants it to be fiction so you can live with no remorse?

      June 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Yessir: You said, "not just someone who wants it to be fiction so you can live with no remorse?"

      I don't understand this viewpoint. What exactly do you think we've done that requires us to be remorseful?

      June 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • ScottK

      @SeanNJ – "What exactly do you think we've done that requires us to be remorseful?"

      You see, one of their basic belief's is that all humans are born into sin and need to be saved by accepting Jesus, so we didn't have to do anything, we were born into debt. They are all crazy and have no concept of how the human race actually evolved both physicaly and socially but it gives them an excuse to claim ownership of everything, even newborns.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @ScottK: Yeah, I get that whole thing, but most of these statements are meant to imply that atheists don't believe in god in order to lead our lives of hedonism with no regard for others. I would like to know, aside from the bizarre notion that you mentioned, what else there is that I'm doing that I should feel remorseful about.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Steve Brinkhoff


      June 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  4. Former Catholic School Boy

    The Taliban of the U.S.

    June 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Nellie

      Hear, hear.

      June 4, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • MIJohn

      No, worse. The Taliban at least did SOME good in Afghanistan by imposing an extremely basic form of public services to everyone. These wackos would just as soon turn over things like police, fire department, water, etc to corporations, send the military out to attack any nation seen as "not Christian enough" with the exception of Israel, and eliminate taxes on the everyone but those making less than $250,000 a year. Then they would start praying when things broke down because there hadn't been a drop of maintenance done on things and 90% of Americans couldn't afford to buy basic goods.

      These guys make the Taliban look incredibly competent and liberal. Not to mention I would be scared to death to give these people a firearm – just like Cheney they would break the first rule of hunting (never shoot unless you are 100% certain of your target and what is in front of and behind it) and probably kill everyone in a 500 yard radius trying to hit something 10 yards away.

      June 4, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  5. KAK

    How can one have freedom if one is enslaved by faith?

    June 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • my6cents

      faith in christ jesus is freedom

      June 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  6. Jay

    "As Mahatma Gandhi rots in hell his opinion of Christianity really doesn't matter." Wow. You people are sick.

    June 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Jay

      Takes sick to know sick. LOL ROTFL

      June 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  7. janetlaw

    Now, a republican that DOES turn his/her back on Reed, that I would like to see.

    June 3, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  8. pat carr

    ah you gotta love those $hri$tians. Praise Je$u$ and pass the ca$h

    June 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  9. nick2

    There is about as much moral content in our political system as there is fiber in a soft-freeze ice-cream. None. Its all about power no matter which way it is dressed up.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  10. QS

    "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,"

    The "Christian Coalition" has been on steroids for a long time, saying that now really means that it did a few lines of coc, smoked some crack and drank a case of Red Bull...all while being on steroids!

    June 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  11. George B

    The congresscritter talking to Ralph Reed is Rep. Pete Sessions (TX-32) who is the chaiman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Jeff Sessions is a senator from Alabama.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  12. Larry L

    The Republican Party needs voters who pick their candidates on religion, guns, and racial bigotry. In our democracy political winners must get votes from somebody other than the wealthy class – since that group is quite small. The GOP will go as far as wrecking the economic recovery to gain political power as long as the wealthiest Americans aren't significantly harmed. They absolutely require a large group of people who believe the lies from the swift boat crowd, and the evangelical community is filled with narrow-mined, hateful, and gullible people. Sweet!

    June 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Robyn

      Mr Bush found it far more cost effective to spend his operator's money on purchasing electoral officials and technology. Combined with voter intimidation and supression it allowed him too lose the election by a small enough margin that the Presidency could be conferred upon him extralegally with minimal suspension of disbelief, since Americans were generally led to expect free and fair elections prior to that time.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • my6cents

      And the democrats promise their voters that the govt. will supply everything for them.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  13. ScottK

    "When the doctrine of allegiance to party can utterly up-end a man's mor al const itution and make a temporary fool of him besides, what excuse are you going to offer for preaching it, teaching it, extending it, perpetuating it? Shall you say, the best good of the country demands allegiance to party? Shall you also say it demands that a man kick his truth and his conscience into the gutter, and become a mouthing lunatic, besides?" – Mark Twain

    June 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  14. Colin

    The USA is like an old car, lurching its way into the future, driven by free thinkers and progressives. The religious right is like a park-brake that one cannot disengage, that keeps retarding the forward motion of the car.

    I only wish there was some way we, as a country, could shake off this excess baggage. Maybe we give them their own state. Let's cut Texas in half, move all the evangelicals and the rest of the religious right out there and let them impose their own Draconian social system on themselves. They can ban all other religions, mandate church every Sunday morning, prohibit gays, teach creation “science” and refuse to teach $ex education or allow contraception of any kind.

    Welcome to the 51st State – "Helmand Province, USA". The state capital is Tehran, the state song is the “Hail Mary” put to music and the state bird is, well, the loon, of course.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Rob

      Excellent idea! The religious right-wing bigots deserve each other . Perhaps Plain can be their President and someone like Limbaugh VP.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hey pal...

      You're too much dude ! 😀 LOL...!!!



      June 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • pat carr

      i'm all for that. let them live in their own evangelical hell hole and leave the rest of us alone

      June 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • KAK

      Where we do we sign the secession papers?

      June 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • my6cents

      There is , leave the US and go live in your progressive , Godless utopia where anything goes and there are no restraints on any behaviors .

      June 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm |

      My wife and I were hoping the May 21 rapture would carry off the fundamentalist. We thought it would be pretty nice here on earth without them.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  15. notjeffsessions

    I don't think that's Jeff Sessions, who is a senator from Alabama, not Texas.


    June 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  16. Jay

    A bunch of affluent, arrogant, judgmental pseudo-Christians one and all. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    June 3, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • KC

      As Mahatma Gandhi rots in hell his opinion of Christianity really doesn't matter.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Yessir

      @KC – wow, way to prove his point....and I'm Christian. I apologize for that hate spewed. "Judge not, lest you be judged"

      June 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Well, the Christian Taliban are meeting. Hope they locked up the silverware!
      Geeze, I REALLY need to get the hell out of this Taliban stronghold! It feels more and more like an upscale version of Afghanistan every day.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • pat carr

      "As Mahatma Gandhi rots in hell his opinion of Christianity really doesn't matter"

      and as your jesus doesn't exist, neither does yours

      June 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Yessir

      @Wizrd – feel free to leave the country anyday. After all, I'm sure you're more evolved and smarter than the rest of us lol.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  17. Aaron

    He is a ultra conservative "religious leader" with a PhD in political science..... I would definitely qualify that as neoconservative theocratic fascism right there.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • KAK


      June 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  18. Dan Halen

    How to ensure that you don't get elected in 2012 - Go to Ralphie's conference.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  19. The Doo-dah Man

    And my other point that I can't seem to find was that we need to stop referring to bigots as "values voters". Religious bigotry is not a good American value.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  20. heerobya

    My diety, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, would call this Reed guy a troll.

    Just as believable as naked rib-women in a magical fairyland talking to reptiles and zombie saviors and combusting bushes.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      There are two groups in this nation that I dearly hate. Hate is a word I rarely use or even feel.
      The militant Christians, the bible spouters that shove their religious views in my face uninvited and the militant atheists.
      Honestly, the lot of them should be put up against a wall and shot. To protect the safety, security and national interests of the Great United States of America.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • pat carr

      LOL and how may "military atheists" do you know? and how are you any better endorsing violence? With a view like that, perhaps you ought to join them standing at the wall

      June 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • heerobya

      Just pointing out how completely moronic the whole thing is.

      Personally, I think we should go back to worshipping the Greek gods – at least they were cool! Hurling lightning bolts and growing from their fathers forhead, impregnating people, cursing pretty ladies, sleeping in the skins of slain enemies, etc.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • QS

      Then there's those people who like to pretend they're moderate or centrist when really they just can't figure out that one side of that equation is far worse and far reaching than the other, so they refuse to pick the side that's on the right side of history and instead they lob insults at both sides from the "safety" of their "independent" position.

      It's thanks to independents who constantly flip-flop that the GOP still appears to be a relevant party; and at a time when they should really be seen as the Atari of political parties, instead the religious right gives them enough power to only be seen as a slightly used and broken down XBox.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Oooh! I've always preferred pantheons, but I would chose the Egyptians. The Greeks are cool, but somehow the Egyptians seem much cooler.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:29 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.