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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. zhawk88

    Barf. I'm a Christian and have been pretty disgusted with these clowns... its about as far away from what Jesus acted like as you can get. It makes for a great show though.. and no doubt most Christian's will follow... they're too full of blind hate for Obama or anything that has a thought for itself to realize whats going on.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      zhawk88

      Barf. I'm a Christian and have been pretty disgusted with these clowns... its about as far away from what Jesus acted like as you can get. It makes for a great show though.. and no doubt most Christian's will follow... they're too full of blind hate for Obama or anything that has a thought for itself to realize whats going on.

      ----------–
      Hate & hypocrisy runs deep in the Christian Taliban.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  2. JoJo

    Until these so-called "Christians" start talking about the immorality of expensive, unnecessary warfare (mass-murder) they're all hypocrites to me. Blessed are the peacemakers.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  3. shyboy69

    The left hates Christianity almost as much as capitalism. To the left, Christianity is an anachronism. We're supposed to have progressed beyond a belief in anything except the here and now. Which explains our current dilemma and why the goodness and decency that once defined America is itself a thing of the past. The left and its agenda has been a horror for the well-being of this country. If we can recapture the virtues of 5 or 6 decades past, yet still possess the technical know-how and modernity of today, glory will come to America agian. But there must first be a battle. And the virtuous Republican ideals must win.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • 3lwood

      Enough with the straw man arguments! Don't speak for anyone but yourself.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • J.W

      The republican ideals are going down.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • dofacc

      Lessee, 50 years ago, Hippies, riots, Viet Nam war.....
      60 years ago, Jim Crow, McCarthyism, duck and cover.....

      I don't think I am seeing what your exact point is.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • dofacc

      And as a detail, isn't that time frame pretty much the height of liberal thinking and behavior in this country?

      August 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • TheTruth

      " And the virtuous Republican ideals must win." This is the problem with Amerika .... these people actuall think that rethugans are virtuous. They who want to get rid of SS which I have paid into my whole life.. Tax the poor to give to the rich. The anti-american things they do and have to nerve to say. My way or the highway for them.....no way to run a country !!

      August 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  4. Schazbut

    Oh yes, God is sitting up there, waiting on right wing wack job politicians to pray for economic salvation of one of the wealthiest countries on earth....meanwhile famine and absolute poverty is rampant in Eastern Africa....
    Give me a break....

    August 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  5. Jim

    My question is how do you keep God and religion out of politics?

    August 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • 3lwood

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." That's how.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Jim

      My question is how do you keep God and religion out of politics?

      ---–
      I will take a stab. You feed the christians to the lions? Did that come out wrong?

      August 12, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  6. JoJo

    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca

    August 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  7. HotAirAce

    This wingnut apparently believes that his sky daddy is telling him to run for president. When the wingnut loses, will he blame his non-existant supernatural being for his lose, or at the very least, for sending out mixed messages?

    August 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  8. texan

    dude texas is by far the best state in the US. califarmia aint crap

    August 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Jim

      Is that because Texans can't spell?

      August 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • irene

      Only a Texan would claim that! Texas: land of lowest median wage in the country, lowest rates of health insurance coverage, lowest rate of high school graduates. Texas does rate highest in ranking for percentage of employed working at or below minimum wage however. Way to go Texas.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @HotAirAce – Maybe you should check again.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Just did – still not there, and no evidence it/he/she ever was...

      August 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  9. Deep North

    1. Folks ought to quit with the Church and State mantra. Every monetary transaction you make has a little of God in it. It's currently still on the MONEY! The Federal Reserve Note you O so want and need to perform your everyday living.

    2. The beginning of the ruin of each great civilization seems to begin with its moral decline. Have you really looked at America lately.Business failing, Government falling down on the job. Courts can't get a correct verdict or ruling to save someones life.

    Perhaps a little prayer for good decision making is in order...for the population at large...to vote in some people who just may care about more than themselves.

    I know we need the help as a country. Maybe God just want to hear from us in order to intervene, before it it too late!

    August 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Last I checked the First Amendment was a wee bit more important than a lame 1950s law to change the wording on our currency in a knee-jerk, fear-based reaction to the evil commies.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Last I checked, there was no god...

      August 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      Nothing fails better than prayer!

      August 12, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  10. ralph

    Do ya smelllllllllllllllllllllll what the rickster is cookin????

    August 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  11. Bob

    As the rest of the world laughs...

    August 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • garc

      And they will, too. What other first world country can you think of run by religion? What right do American Christians have to mock Islamic Republics if we choose to no longer separate church and state?

      August 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  12. Rick Perry

    Please vote for me, I'll turn the economy around and lower taxes 🙂

    August 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  13. Johnny Five

    NO, NO, NO!!!

    He might be good for Texas, but he is NOT good for America. He won't get RPs supporters nor many others. It's a big FAIL.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • irene

      Rick Perry is not good for Texas. They rank 51 for the rate of high school graduates, last in the country. Texas also has the lowest median wage in the country, the lowest rates of health insurance and the most people working at or below minimum wage. How Christian of him!

      August 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • ralphinator

      rank 51? hahahah, how about 50th? what a tard

      August 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • irene

      Rick"tard" the statistics include Washington DC. Were you educated in Texas, where dull minds think that they are brilliant and brainwashed to vote GOP.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • irene

      Sorry: I meant Ralph "tard"!

      August 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      They want them to be stupid in Texass, easier to control with religion you see.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  14. gassy pants

    i got the runs!

    August 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • constipated

      must be nice, I'm on the other end of the spectrum 🙁

      August 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  15. Alex in NJ

    Please GOP! Don't blow 2012 on this guy! It's the economy stupid! The base want's Rick Perry. The minority of Republicans want Rick Perry. The majority of Republicans, and right leaning Independents (the most important block) want a businessman. We want someone who understands the markets, and industry. We want someone with a proven track record in the financial world. That's why Romney is the favorite.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • mikey

      Romney has a health care plan to defend. Perry has the most jobs created by any state to defend.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • ralphinator

      @Mikey – Of which 99% were minimum wage jobs. I'm a republican, but look at the facts clown. I don't care if he created a million jobs in a day, if they're all low paying or minimum wage that does no good.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Sad for the republican party when a guy that wears magic underoos is the best choice.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • irene

      Micky, those jobs he created are at or below minimum wage. Companies moved to Texas to cheat their workers of an honest wage. Perry created nothing, just moved higher paying jobs to Texas where the wages and benefits were slashed. I hope he wins the primary because these facts about what really happened in Texas will come out in a big way when he gets vetted by the DEMS.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Jim

      Americans will never elect a Mormon to be President. Look how long it took to elect a Catholic. The Mormons are much more of a cult and just as secretive.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • ER

      I read all those new jobs are at WalMart and McDonalds

      August 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Travis

      what do you mean? Rick Perry has one of the best track records out there! throughout his three terms being the governor in Texas he has brought them to being the second-largest state economy in the US. they just passed NY. if you want a proven track record, who better to vote for than someone who's state created more than twice the jobs than any other state last year. their housing market is considerably better than most of the US, their population is increasing faster than anywhere in the US. this man is more than just a devout christian, hes a man with a proven track recod, that understands markets and industry. and i want you all to remember, we can't go off what people promise because how many "promises" has Obama kept? very few. you have to go off the track record of the candidate and unfortunately for Obama most of the time on crucial issues that vote was "present'

      August 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Travis

      what do you mean? Rick Perry has one of the best track records out there! throughout his three terms being the governor in Texas he has brought them to being the second-largest state economy in the US. they just passed NY. if you want a proven track record, who better to vote for than someone who's state created more than twice the jobs than any other state last year. their housing market is considerably better than most of the US, their population is increasing faster than anywhere in the US. this man is more than just a devout christian, hes a man with a proven track recod, that understands markets and industry. and i want you all to remember, we can't go off what people promise because how many "promises" has Obama kept? very few. you have to go off the track record of the candidate and unfortunately for Obama most of the time on crucial issues that vote was "present'

      --------–
      Sorry but evangelicals(Christian Taliban) scare the h@ll out of me.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  16. Odo

    I think that we are going to get a George Bush round three in 2012, in the name of Rick Perry. Simply because the powers that control Europe and its American Diaspora want a confrontation with China. They strongly believe that China’s economic gain is Western economic loss. Who else to start some sh… with China better than a crazy Texas Cowboy.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  17. Nurse Lisa

    hopefully they'll remember their savior is Jesus, not any politician – and He (Jesus) said to help the poor not to oppress them. Funny how the GOP can pull out all the abomination scriptures to sit in judgment of people Jesus forgives, but they seemingly ignore scriptures like Psalm 37:14, and Proverbs 14:21, 31 and 19:17, 21:13, 22:9, 16 and 28: 6, 8, 27; and Ecclesiastes 5:8, Amos 5:11-12 and Mark 10:21 to name but a few.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • razer

      Hopefully people will remember that separation of Church and State is important. Just look at the Middle Ages or the Middle East. Have we learned nothing from our past?

      August 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      razer

      Hopefully people will remember that separation of Church and State is important. Just look at the Middle Ages or the Middle East. Have we learned nothing from our past?

      ---
      No we haven't...just look at our own homegrown the Christian Taliban

      August 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Razer – Hopefully people will remember recent history and what the separation of church and state did for Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, and other places. They separated the church all right; they burned them down, stole their literature and burned it, killed or enslaved their members. No one of religious views was allowed to hold office, either, as many people suggest here. Could be the beginning of something horrible to anyone who values freedom of religion.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Barfy Spewsalot

      Have you considered the God the GOP worships has horns & a spiked tail? the Bible these folks read is the satanic Bible. Sadly the sheeple are eating it up.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Barfy Spewsalot

      Have you considered the God the GOP worships has horns & a spiked tail? the Bible these folks read is the satanic Bible. Sadly the sheeple are eating it up.
      ------–
      Actually satan would be better company. Sadly I don't believe in him.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  18. mikey

    Time for CNN to conduct a full fledge attack on Perry.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • CW

      Republican candidates have a tendency to discredit themselves... They really don't need CNN to help them out.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  19. Jay

    I'm sorry but this guy hasn't got a chance. Anyone serving up the Lord in the political arena talks out of both sides of their mouth.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      How do you know when a christian is lying?
      .
      The mouth is moving.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • irene

      Hey Anti, you stole our joke about the GOP!

      August 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  20. mike

    Great another religious wacko,who thinks he works for God.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • AZks

      No kidding, just what the country needs......NOT!!!!!

      August 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • grannywheelz

      AMEN!!!

      August 12, 2011 at 4:32 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.