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


    The only ignorant one here is you.Do you really think there is some space god out there.Must be nice to think like you reality is not needed.

    June 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  2. ralph

    Best President ever

    you are a tool

    June 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  3. FriendOfCatholics

    Pretty sure the notions of "social conservatism" and "freedom" are completely inconsistent with one another. I'm also amused that this particular organization would borrow from the urban/rap culture with its use of the term "stree cred". LOL

    June 3, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • FriendOfCatholics

      Sorry, "street cred".

      June 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  4. SaraTonin

    God is walking the beach and comes upon a Christian, a Muslim, and an Atheist. God, feeling particularly benevolent, offers each a wish. The Christian says God take me and all of my Christian friends to heaven immediately where we can worship you 24/7. Poof the Christian disappears. The Muslim say Oh God, please allow me and all of my fellow Muslims into heaven to meet our 72 virgins and worship you. Poof the Muslim vanishes. God turns to the Atheist and asks what can I do for you? The Atheist says gleefully, I'lll have a can of Coke. A can of Coke is al that you want, God says in pure amazement. Yes, says the Atheist, and it's for you for a job well done. You have just solved all of the worlds problems and I thought that you might need refreshments! .... My take on this is God meets three men on the beach, a Republican, a Democrat, and an Independent ....

    June 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • scoobers

      Lol yes because if this planet only had atheists then there would be nobody poor, nobody hungry, just pure bliss in every direction. Gotta love the ignorant no matter what form they come in.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Marlye

      Good one, SaraTonin!

      June 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • asrael

      A sense of humor always welcome...

      June 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  5. Lenny Pincus

    Love that liar Erick Erickson, a noted CNN expert. Jack Abramoff and public relations consultant Michael Scanlon quietly worked with Ralph Reed to help the State of Texas shut down an Indian tribe casino in 2002. Then the two quickly persuaded the tribe to pay $4.2 million to try to get Congress to reopen it. Abramoff paid Reed over a million for his contribution to the fraud. Instead of serving time, Reed is cutting deals. Like I said, Republicans are anti-American.

    June 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  6. notacultist

    Stupid Christians bringing religion into US politics. This is a democracy; religion has no place in the oval office. Silly cult.

    June 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  7. SaraTonin

    Ralph Reed is everything that's wrong with politics and has had his hands in Republican politics now for quite a while, thanks to Pat Robertson, the filth of human life. Ralph has come so close to being arrested so many times but like the teflon Don evades being brought to justice. Someday he will. Stopping Ralph Reed will do a great deal to clean up the right and if it's the law fine or fate, that's fine too.

    June 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  8. carlos

    send everyone of THEM to war and see diaper sales go through the roof, it will be good for the economy and keep their stink away from us caring, intelligent human beings........criminals and parasites ALL OF THEM and talking about that criminal reed.....no comment, UGH, phart, vomit, plague...

    June 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • carlos jr

      dad, are you trolling again?

      June 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • MIJohn

      I'm pretty sure whoever we sent them to fight would just send them right back and accuse us of the use of a weapon of mass destruction. And they would be right – the deliberate spreading of plague (in this case stupidity) has long been considered a crime against humanity.

      June 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  9. Brian

    I think the real quote should have been, "The Jack Abrhamoff story was in a lot of newspapers, but evangelicals don't read newspapers."

    June 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  10. best president ever

    wish george bush could be re-elected again, way better than nobama

    June 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • SaraTonin

      Oh my God .. I don't believe this post! It was George Bush that got us into this mess and this guys wants him back!!!! Do they have computers in looney bins?

      June 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • best president ever

      lol, dont be jealous

      June 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Marc A. Ellis

      Bush and his party flushed this nation down the toilet... bring him back to do what, hit the lever again?

      June 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • asrael

      The nice thing about a wish like this: one never has to worry about its coming true...

      June 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Concerned Citizen

      MMM... Goooooooooooood FASCIST !

      June 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  11. LouAz

    Too many christians, too few lions ! Oh I miss the good old days . . .

    June 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  12. George Busch

    They should yank the tax-free status these wealthy con artists have once they start endorsing a political party or candidate. They are taking advantage of the system to become rich and have their hands in the pockets of the RNC.

    June 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • LouAz

      Jeebus loves me
      Yes I know
      Cause my Accountant
      Tells me so . . .

      June 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  13. Joe

    Should be "They only read FOX News..."

    June 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Heizu

      Are you kidding me? They write FOX's teleprompter scripts.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  14. Mike Houston

    Ralf Reed and his bunch of bible thumpers is THE reason I will NEVER vote for a Republican (or for any Democrat who agrees
    with them)...Keep those sanctimonious phonies completely out of politics!!!

    June 3, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  15. Son_74

    Evangelical and Candidate are words that have no business together...complete separation is needed for any government to truly succeed. http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-World-United-for-Complete-Seperation-of-Religion-and-Government/100248146735540

    June 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  16. JT

    The real purpose of this homage is for each candidate to prove they hate all the right people just as this voting block does and that you will promise to further the American Taliban agenda and work towards their version of a theocracy.

    June 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Chas in Iowa

      Very well stated.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  17. DRTSAT

    I have no problem with religion. I have no problem with politicians who are religious and pratice their faith. I have no problem with a politician who say that they pray over a big decision. What I have is a problem with is politicians who think they need an Evangelical blessing in order to run for office. I have a problem with those who try to use their faith to get elected. Your religion, as it relates to us voters, is irrelevant. Your politics and your actions as it related to the economy, jobs creation, defense, education, the deficit etc........ is what matters. Pray if you must but don't wear your religion on your sleeve because I don't care what god you believe (or don't) in. I care what you do for the country in the here and now. We'll find out if any one religion is right when we die.

    June 3, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  18. don

    ...because he's CREEPY!

    June 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  19. E

    How precious, a man who mired himself neck deep in fraud as a co-conspirator in the Jack Abramoff scandal is now selling himself as the key to the evangelical vote?

    Either evangelics have an enormous tolerance for hypocritical criminals, or they never read the news.

    June 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Joe

      "they never read the news" Then only read Fox News, which amounts to the same thing.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Mike Houston

      They do have a great tolerance for hypocritical criminals because so many of them ARE hypocritical criminals. And they wear
      blindfolds and earplugs when it comes to any "News" that doesn't reinforce their world view...

      June 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  20. 2termlimit

    the gop would be better served by listening to what the voters are screaming at congress: "jobs! jobs! jobs! there. sermon over. no coffee and danish required.

    June 3, 2011 at 2:58 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.