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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. Howard

    Abraham Lincoln was right ... Obama can't fool all of the people all of the time ... and, even with the mainstream media constantly promoting him, and making excuses for him, the people are finally beginning to see what an abject failure Obama really is.
    SAVE AMERICA ... IMPEACH OBAMA NOW !!!

    August 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • J.W

      Impeach him based on what?

      August 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Mike

      Oh shut up...LOL

      August 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Mike

      Impeach him for doing a good job/ Why would we want to do that you moron?

      August 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  2. SiriusVH

    Texas is the second largest economy in the U.S., with a GDP in excess of $1 tril. Texas also represents 8.3% of the U.S. economy in 2011. So, in my humble opinion, the 'religious stuff' is of relatively low importance (I speak as an atheist). I think that people should, instead, concentrate more on Perry's economic 'philosophy' and whether or not his claims yo being able to take the country out of the morass where it is now are sound. That starts with looking at up close to the Texas economy.

    The two big, and related questions, are

    1. Is there a ‘Texas miracle’?
    2. If there is one, can it be spread to the rest of America, as Perry would like you to believe?

    The Texas miracle: It is undeniable that Texas has been hit less than the rest of the economy by the Great Recession and has come out of it faster than the rest of the country. There are some relatively simple and, equally undeniable reasons for that:

    a. Texas is an energy-rich country and, like other energy-rich states (and countries) has benefitted from rises in oil prices. Statistics show that a great deal of the growth in employment in Texas is either directly or indirectly related to the expansion of the oil/natural gas sector.

    b. Texas faces an almost infinitely-elastic supply of cheap, unskilled labor from neighboring states and Mexico. That explains why, the vast majority of the jobs created by Texas and minimum-wage jobs. This also explains why Texas is having problems reducing its rate of unemployment (currently at 8.2%). There are 25 states with unemployment rates below Texas.

    c. Texas has a low-regulation, cheap labor philosophy designed to keep profits high.

    d. Texas was less hit by the housing crisis than the rest of the country, to their credit, most definitely. It would seem that the demand for and supply of loans that could not be paid was lower than elsewhere.

    In a nutshell, you can think of Texas as a combination of China’s coastal areas (flooded with cheap labor coming from the hinterland and no regulation to speak of) and Saudi Arabia (for obvious reasons). It is those facts that explain, mostly, Texas’ success. The fact that Texas is subsidizing companies to come and operate in Texas is, strictly, speaking, a waste of resources, as anyone who has taken Economics 101 will tell you. In fact, of all people, the conservatives should be the ones against industry subsidies.

    That brings us to the second question: How many states in America are blessed with such resources? Not many, unfortunately. So Perry’s claims that he can apply his ‘conservative philosophy’ to the entire nation and obtain the same degree of success, needs to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. If America were a collection of Texas’, we would not be in the situation where we are and the recession might have resolved itself by now.

    Finally, we should not forget that, part of Texas’ ability to keep people employed stems from it having received around $18 bil. in Federal assistance through Obama’s stimulus package (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009). For fiscal year 2010-2011 alone, Texas has received $12,058,787,615 (Source: Susan Combs Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Window on State Government, ARRA Funds appropriated). This money is drying up now and Texas is having to cut public spending to balance its budget. This will have an impact on employment that should play itself out in 2012. Until now, they have been under the radar screen because Texas reviews its budget only every two years. It is expected that Texas will lose about 100,000 jobs as result of such cuts.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  3. diostronies

    Now let me get this straight. Ron Paul just speeched in iowa, that he just stood by as a student, and witnessed a baby taken in ceaserian and put in a bucket of liquid to die....and HE DID NOTHING? What...he couldn't, because he'd be running for congress some day? Because he'd be running for pres some day? You mean he didn't walk out, quit, scream, NOTHING except get his credits? That makes him an accomplice....doesn't it? But he just saved it up as a good story to profit himself, to moralize in our faces while he wipes away a tear? God is not on their side.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  4. a person of the Name

    @ older bull I have nothing against any other faith. Its their life to do what they choose but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  5. older bull

    So why does he want this job? He suggests Texas leaves the union then wants to be President? His own foolish statements will keep him out of the White House. The further you move to the right the more and more they appear out of touch with reality....

    August 14, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Psi Captain

      Rick Perry? Oh great, yea a Ronald Wilson Reagan 666 false prophet look and sound alike. Follow the golden calf.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  6. HouseHaunter454

    God bless Rick Perry and his run for the WH.

    August 14, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • LuminousTruth

      Is that what Jesus would say? or would he say: MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD? I never knew you!

      August 14, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • older bull

      I'm thinking that God shouldn't be brought into politics. Remember your history? We all might end up wearing our belt buckles on our hats and participating in witch hunts....

      August 14, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • skpfrmdc

      ha.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • kt4truth

      First, I think the point of the strory is that this woman's beliefs evolved once she was old enough to make her own decisions about what truth was for her. She began to see that the reality that she'd been indoctrinated with did not fit with the reality of life. I admire her greatly for her being able to think for herself and not just follow doctrine. I wish more people could expand their understanding as much as she has.

      Second, before anyone decides that because a person calls themselves Christian, that we need to understand just what they do believe in. Take Rick Perry for example. His recent companions that he chose to surround him and sponsor his prayer rally are really on the fringe. I don't put that out there as a frivolous accusation. The New Apostolic Reformation group has some very strange beliefs which some evangelists are calling heretical. This is a group that literally believes their purpose is to rule the world in all aspects of society. For proof I would encourage you to Google the group and read the information for yourself. For probably the best synopsis I would direct you to the website herescope.com for a studied report from the Discernment Research Group. A group that looks to rule the world whom Rick Perry has associated himself with brings into question what exactly is his ultimate purpose is in his bid for the presidency. It has caused me some concern.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  7. a person of the Name

    @ dna call it what you want but I've seen things that would blow your mind.

    August 14, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • fimeilleur

      did you see a shrink for these visions? Could be a chemical imbalance...

      August 14, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • jimtanker

      Acid will do that to you.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  8. CheeseSteak

    10 Things overheard in Michelle Bachmann's Evangelical Christian Church

    1. Jesus loves you, but I think you're an A& &hole
    2. Pass the plate, I have to go out and feed the meter
    3. Does Pastor Clevus know there's hole in the back of his frock?
    4. Thank God I put Beano on that donut this morning.
    5. My God, it's full of stars
    6. If wanted to stand up and sit down every 30 seconds, I'd have gone to a Catholic church
    7. I'm not wearing any underwear
    8. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...sure, put me in for a dozen, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...
    9. I can't understand a word you said Martha, stop speaking in tongues
    10. Wow, that was the best church &ex I ever had

    August 14, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  9. a person of the Name

    We do need more prayer. Something you must know though. Is although we pray for something to happen doesn't always mean that it will happen. It doesn't matter how bad we want something its not about our will, its all about God's will. He know's what is best for us.

    August 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Person.. ah yes coincidence .. thinking it has been a miracle for 2000 years.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • older bull

      So you say we need more prayer. From who? Just Christians? Do you want the prayers of the Jews? How about the Muslims? I'm sure there are many Hindus and Buddhists praying very fervently- do you want these?

      August 14, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  10. Harry Baxter

    Why do you think "Christian Values" trump any other values? More lives have been lost over who (Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc) have better values than for any other reason. The key is for everyone to mind their own damn business and quit obsessing over how others live their lives.

    August 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • CheeseSteak

      Christians are the worst. Absolute worst.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • jmb2fly

      Baxter,

      Take your own advice!

      August 13, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • LuminousTruth

      jmb2fly,

      take Baxter's advise. lol

      August 14, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  11. jmb2fly

    All the h@te filled post on here are amusing....... I agree with Gov. Perry; the only real hope we have is God and the greatest tool we have to bring ourselves in line with HIM is prayer. We need more of these events, not less. If you don't believe don't attend!

    August 13, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Reality

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen
      ------------------------------------–

      August 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Harry Baxter

      We don't care if you agree with Perry. If you'd stick your head out of the Evangelical tent, and read some unbiased lit, you'd find that this guy is a loser.

      August 13, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @jmb2fly

      " We need more of these events, not less. "

      So, God needs a certain # of 'prayer events' before 'He' performs his miraculous deeds...?

      Peace...

      August 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • jmb2fly

      No reality, you got it backwards......

      Peace.

      August 13, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Reality

      jmb2fly,

      How so?

      August 14, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • older bull

      Again- What God and prayers are you talking about? It seems somewhat short sighted to admit only the Christian prayers as viable ones.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • jmb2fly

      Reality,

      The same as many others, you don't understand the purpose of prayer. You have it backwards. You seem to be very intelligent. I'll let you figure it out.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  12. clif777

    seriously do we really need another Texan in the White House to screw it up again like the last administration you know that the last president has thrown money at this guy, he's just a puppet for Bush.

    August 13, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • txchris

      Hey clif777, it is totally unfair to judge Rick Perry on the merits of Bush. Perry has a completely separate record than him, one riddled with his own baggage of deceit and political evil. Let the man stand on his own bad merits..

      August 14, 2011 at 4:14 am |
  13. Jay

    You convinced me...it's all about Christ; rather than getting Perry money, and votes. Yeah. That is why I'm going to write In vote for Christ instead of Perry. hahaha!

    August 13, 2011 at 3:26 am |
    • CheeseSteak

      Texas. Can we make an offer to Mexico to take it back?

      August 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  14. a person of the Name

    It means pray in all things that you do. Not just so someone will see you and say look how holy he/she is because they pray. I do pray at church but also at home. What rick perry did was so he could get seen being holy. Now that doesn't mean he wasn't praying with his whole heart but it was to show he does pray.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  15. 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 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  16. a person of the Name

    @ bonnie hmm, I think I have to disagree with you on that. Jesus is God. He is God made flesh but you are right in one part, there is only one God.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Reality

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen

      August 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  17. Joke

    Well, I guess when you have the endorsement of Ralph Reed, America can be reassured that the Bush Years are going to go on...and on...and on...and on...

    August 12, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  18. Bonnie

    If Mr. Perry is praying to a three-headed god-ghost, he's talking to the wind. Almighty God is ONE spirit person and Jesus is His Son, a completely separate and individual spirit person. See Matthew 3:17, John chapter 5 and then 1ST John 5:9-10. Also, if we choose not to truly know our God, by disregarding His word and His Son, He is not obligated to protect us from disease and death. Note the Evangelical in this news article whose wife has cancer. See John 5:14.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Reality

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

      August 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Bonnie. a three sided ghost.. I assume that you do not agree with the catholics...how do you know that your interpretation of god.. which ever one you have chosen is the correct version? you could most likely present no evidence for or against for either version.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • jimtanker

      Bonnie,

      You do know that you're quoting from a work of fiction dont you? Why not quote from "The Hobbit" or one of the Twilight books?

      August 15, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  19. a person of the Name

    @ wakeup then you nothing of what it is to be a Christian I do what I do because I love the Lord.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • jimtanker

      It's easy to be a christian. Just be delusional enough to believe in something that doesnt exist and never did and ABRACADABRA. There you are.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  20. a person of the Name

    I don't think any church should be in control of the country but I would like to see someone with Christian values in office but if the person has a good moral code would be ok. Religion is not the problum, greed is.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • jimtanker

      No, religion is a problem. It gives people an excuse to do dumb things and then just beg for forgiveness and they actually believe that they are absolved. That's the easy way out.

      Be good for goodness sake.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:05 am |
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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.