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Ahead of presidential bid, Rick Perry and evangelical leaders court each other
Texas Gov. Rick Perry leads a prayer event August 6 in Houston. Thousands prayed for God to save "a nation in crisis."
August 12th, 2011
07:37 AM ET

Ahead of presidential bid, Rick Perry and evangelical leaders court each other

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – Evangelical pastor Jim Garlow has met Texas Gov. Rick Perry only once, but the politician left quite an impression.

Garlow, who is based in California, where he helped lead the campaign to ban same-sex marriage in the state, was attending a big prayer rally that Perry sponsored last weekend in Houston when he and his wife were invited backstage with the governor.

“My wife has stage 4 cancer, and Perry ended up talking with her quite a bit and praying for her and her healing,” Garlow said. “We spent a fair amount of time backstage.”

Though Garlow notes that the meeting was personal, not political, he is hardly the only conservative evangelical leader who has begun forming a relationship with Perry in recent days.

As the Texas governor has mulled a bid for the presidency over the last few months – a source familiar with his plans says he will formally announce his candidacy on Saturday – Perry and his circle have reached out to Christian activists who will be influential in the GOP primaries.

At the same time, many of those conservative leaders - underwhelmed by the Republican presidential field so far - have contacted Perry and those close to him to inquire about his commitment to causes like opposition to  abortion and same-sex marriage.

The flurry of meetings and phone calls portends a primary campaign that is likely to rely heavily on evangelical support, presenting a serious challenge to socially conservative candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann and creating the possibility of two-person race between Perry, a Christian Right darling, and the more establishment Mitt Romney.

“There’s been a significant attempt by him and his staff to reach out to conservative Christian leaders and it’s now going to a new level,” says Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Council, a conservative Christian advocacy group, talking about Perry's outreach.

“Perry is not making the same mistake that McCain made,” Staver said. “McCain wanted Christian conservative votes but didn’t want to get too close to Christian conservative leaders.”

Kelly Shackelford, a Texas-based evangelical activist who has been close to Perry for 20 years, says he has fielded roughly 100 phone calls in recent weeks from Christian activists across the country who are eager to learn more about Perry.

“People are calling and asking, ‘Is this guy really a social conservative and a fiscal conservative?’ and it’s easy to say yes because I’ve seen it,” said Shackelford, who runs a conservative legal advocacy group called the Liberty Institute. “As far as proving himself, he’s been the most solid conservative I’ve seen anywhere in the country.”

Shackelford says Perry has signed more anti-abortion legislation than any governor in the country, including a recent measure that requires women seeking an abortion in Texas to view a picture of the embryo or fetus and hear a description of its development before having the procedure.

Perry is also a supporter of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Many of the activists checking in with Shackelford are concerned that Pawlenty and Bachmann, the other Republican candidates popular among conservative evangelicals, aren’t generating enough support and have limited appeal outside the evangelical subculture.

“They want a candidate who is not only socially and fiscally conservative, but who could actually raise money,” says Shackelford. “Perry can bridge the establishment and grass roots sides of the party and that’s really hard to find.”

Perry, who has presided over a state that has seen strong job growth amid the economic downturn, is considered popular among business groups.

“Rick Perry has the potential to energize tea party and social conservatives, as well as attract endorsements and contributions from GOP donors and elected officials,” said Ralph Reed, who leads the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

“Not unlike another Texas governor, George W. Bush, he can bridge the establishment wing of the party and the conservative grass roots,” said Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition. “That’s quite a combination, and my sense is he will reshuffle this race in a significant way.”

Romney, the current establishment favorite, is unpopular among many conservative Christian activists because of his onetime support for abortion rights and because of a health care law he signed as governor of Massachusetts that mandates coverage.

And Romney, a Mormon, faces obstacles in connecting with evangelical voters along religious lines, as Perry, Pawlenty and Bachmann appear to be doing.

A CNN/ORC International Poll released Thursday showed 15% of Republican and independent voters who lean toward the GOP picked Perry as their choice for the Republican nomination.

That put Perry, still not officially a candidate, just 2 percentage points behind Romney, considered the front-runner in the nominating process. Romney's advantage over Perry is within the survey's sampling error.

Much of the evangelical organizing around Perry grew out of last weekend’s Houston prayer rally, called The Response, which Perry began organizing last year.

The event, cosponsored by conservative evangelical groups, was aimed at bringing God's help to a "nation in crisis,” and drew thousands of worshippers.

“I got involved in The Response three or four months ago and at that time, the Perry for president push was not the issue," said Garlow, who is supporting Newt Gingrich for president but has been disappointed in the response to the former House Speaker's campaign so far. "It became that way primarily after Huckabee pulled his name out of the race.”

Indeed, many conservative activists began calling on Perry to run only after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced in May that he would not seek the White House.

“I was astounded at the pressure on him to run," Garlow said. "You felt it building and we were trying to plan this prayer event and we’re saying, ‘How do we keep this out of politics because this is about Christ?' ”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Politics • Rick Perry

soundoff (573 Responses)
  1. Jan

    Rick Perry wraps himself in the flag clasped together with a cross, but underneath the man carries a dagger. Anyone who says he's been called by God to run for office is kidding himself and everyone else. He is a vicious politician and certainly no man of God....

    August 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  2. Mikeisatroll

    Mike is a teatroll.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  3. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    On Monday, August 15, 2011 at 1:47 am. in the wee hours did "morpunkt" rather stumbling around did write stating, "Great Evangelical Hope #5. How long will the GOP be hostage to the talibangelicals? I'll vote for Mitt, because he doesn't wear his religion on his sleeve and is the best candidate for the economy, hands down."

    To vote or not to vote for these are the quandries of the undeniable tenacities of freedoms' liberalis-miss-materialists. 🙂

    August 15, 2011 at 5:57 am |
  4. chris

    down with all these people who can't live their own lives and expect to have a say in how others live theirs. this si how the natzi party got started folks, we have already herd from other rethugs how it's gonna be their way and no one else's. here are your anti-christs everyone, right there on stage smiling and lieing to you in the name of jeasus but i guess as long as a black man isn't POTUS then you feel great about it...

    August 15, 2011 at 3:17 am |
  5. morpunkt

    Great Evangelical Hope #5.
    How long will the GOP be hostage to the talibangelicals?
    I'll vote for Mitt, because he doesn't wear his religion on his sleeve and is the best candidate for the economy, hands down.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  6. jmb2fly

    A bunch of lemmings heading for a cliff. We can see the cliff, can't we? Don't we realize that sooner or later we can't pay our bills, the credit will be cut off, and all this will come to a halt? But we just keep heading for that cliff.....

    We are not praying to change God's mind or get Him to act. We are praying because we need to change our minds and stop heading for that cliff we can all see.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  7. Mike

    Obama has failed miserably like the right knew he would, but wasn't it fun listening to him talk tough and pull your emotional chain promising "change?"

    We got change alright, higher debt, an unprecedented lowering of USA's credit rating, NASA hacked, and a worsening economy to show for all the money he spent on.....what did he spend it on again?

    Lefties always fall for a good speech and show, but criticize the right for "snake oil salesmen" while cheering rapturously for USA's worst snake oil salesman ever, Obama.

    August 14, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • t

      Im really tired of all this fake news. Wake up and steal back your brains America. These main stream media types are trying to pick your president for you. Just take for example that Ron Paul got 2nd in the straw poll but there isn't a single mention of him on cnn.com Mitt R. got only 3% of the straw poll vote but they call him a top tier canidate. Mitt R. is stupid and Michele B. isn't any better. AT this point anyone can be worthless Obama and Ron Paul is the smartest guy running for office in 2012. Yoiu want real change for America? Stop voting in more of the same to the White House. Ron Paul is the only Non-flipflopping canidate and he has been at this for 30 years!

      August 15, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  8. MikeBell

    Is this another Huchabee?

    August 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  9. 21k

    and we laugh about how backwards the muslims in the middle east appear, with each imam vying for political power using god as the basis of their particular sect. we are no better here.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • PoliSciMon

      Agree 100%

      August 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • t

      I agree. Canidates are hard to find that run just on the issues. The God canidates scare people into voting for them just like religion scares people into church. Vote Ron Paul for 2012

      August 15, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  10. Peikovian

    An American tragedy that Republicans are conservatives who want to surrender your mind to spiritual warfare, and Democrats are liberals who want to surrender your property to the class warfare. Most Americans spend a lifetime working to support themselves and defend their property and have never surrendered to anyone.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  11. boydr2

    If you are contemplating voting for a Republican Governor from Texas to be President, I have one word for you – Bush. Now if you are still contemplating voting for that Republican Governor from Texas, I have one more word for you – psychiatrist.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • 21k

      bush may have appeared to be dumb as a stump, but he did not have public prayer sessions when making big decisions. this perry guy is a complete snake oil salesman.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • older bull

      I don't think this guy has a snowball chance in hell of becoming President. His talk of Texas leaving the Union and his extreme religous views make him unelectable. The media loves this kind of wacko- ala Palin- so you know we will see more of them both,,,

      August 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Mike

      Says you, who cares what you think? You probably voted for Obama, so your opinion is worthless.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  12. Black man

    Did I hear Rick Perry in a CNN interview on 08-14-2011 in Iowa that he is a 'Confederate'. Now the last time that I heard that language it was for the Confederate States of American in the Civil War and KKK.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • MikeBell

      Do you nor recall that the KKK came about after the Civil War and were Democrats.
      Oh, someone told me that the following of the two parties switched sometime during the 60s.

      Check Wikipedia.
      " In 1874 and later, however, newly organized and openly active paramilitary organizations, such as the White League and the Red Shirts, started a fresh round of violence aimed at suppressing blacks' voting and running Republicans out of office. These contributed to segregationist white Democrats regaining political power in all the Southern states by 1877."

      These are the same Democrats that pushed public housing and social programs to enslave the poor of any race.
      Anyone ever heard of Senator Byrd and other legislators that were affiliated with the KKK.
      Abe Lincoln was a Wigg then a Republican. He did not support slavery.

      Uncle Sam's Plantation is being filled with dependents addicted to the Liberal Politic's vote buying programs.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  13. Evangelical is not America

    How can these people support America? They don't believe in equal rights for all Americans. We the People means Everybody.

    August 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • DG

      Gov. Rick Perry is just another IDIOTIC Texan (like bush) on a CNN video segment of his speech in only 2 minutes and 2 seconds of video (2:02) he looked down to read his SCRIPT 37 TIMES and in the next segment lasting 46 seconds, 11 TIMES! What an idiot, non-thinker. His aides more than likely wrote his script. Watch for yourselves@ http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/08/12/exp.nr.bpr.mears.obamacare.cnn?hpt=hp_mid

      August 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • PoliSciMon

      I Agree 100%

      August 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • t

      AGREE

      August 15, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  14. Reality

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    (The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.)

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    August 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  15. Reality

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:
    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals (Perry?) and atonement theology,

    August 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  16. Bill

    Go ahead folks elect Perry. Mark my words, YOU'LL BE SORRY! Texsd, like Arkansas with Clinton, wants to be rid of Perry. Forget his prayer meetings it's just subterfuge. Check his
    record in Texas, he has destroyed the school systems, wants to destroy Social Security and Medicare/Medicade. He is, as all Republicans are ONLY interested in helping the rich. If you want to finish destroying the U.S. go ahead and elect him.

    August 14, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • PoliSciMon

      You are correct...it's to bad the idiots ready to vote for him, will vote against themselves and their own children all in the name of "GOD", unfortunately they will not realize until it's too late they voted for the great deceiver "SATAN". It say's in the very bibles they quote from that in the end Man/Woman will believe a lie before the truth.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Mike

      Says the fool who voted for Obama. You and your lefty pals don't have the right to say a word for a decade at least after voting this useless clown into the white house.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Bill, one word: Bush. We'll be paying for his fiascoes for DECADES.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  17. DavidEMay

    Come on Bush #3 pray yourself to the nomination.

    August 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Bill

      Hear, hear.

      August 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  18. GrimmReaper

    Here are my sentiments on these issues:
    Religious Views: Mine alone. I don't proselytize nor do I tolerate those who do.
    Political Views: Independent Centrist (I don't drink tea or Kool-Aid)
    Favorite Quotations: 'Life's tough. It's even tougher if you're stupid' John Wayne, Sands of Iwo Jima, 1949.
    LMG

    August 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Mike

      Take comfort in your cowardice, anyone sit in the corner afraid to take a stand for fear they will be wrong or make a mistake. Your life will be one non-event after another, never living or dying, just existing in neutrality, being remembered for nothing.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  19. Twin1957

    Obama has bee a real disappointment to me and my family. I won't vote for him again.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • DavidEMay

      Could you explain? Because every time I hear someone say that and I ask them to elaborate, they give me things the POTUS has no control over OR things that congress has to do first so the president can sign it. I find a lot of americans do not understand how our government works.

      August 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Mike

      At least you have the guts to admit your mistake, more than can be said for those here criticizing the right. Imagine people who saw through Obama watching USA fall over themselves slobbering at his feet, mocking and laughing at those who didn't agree with them. It took alot of class for us to hold our tongue these 3 years, and now to watch those same people still unwilling to admit this horrible mistake only proves that they're unworthy to cast a ballot.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      @ Twinnee weenie 1957 eleven,,,,,, "You mean U voted 4 him in the 1st time? So sad So sad,,,,,,,,,, 🙁

      August 15, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  20. George Genung

    Religion and theology are now fair game in political questioning.
    Two to start:
    1) Gov Perry, do you believe all Americans can be saved, all Americans are among the elect? If not, why not ??
    2) Congresswoman Bachmann, how will the book of Revelations impact your policy toward Israel and the Mid-East?

    August 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • GrimmReaper

      Right On! Get "your" religion out of my face.

      August 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Bill

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't politics and religion supposed to be kept separate?

      August 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
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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.