If some political conservatives are appalled that Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, many social conservatives — especially evangelical Christians who are the soul of the movement — have been practically gnashing their teeth over the stunning success of the brash New York real estate magnate.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were not invited to a major gathering of social conservatives in Washington last weekend in what was viewed as a serious snub of two men considered prominent Republican presidential contenders for 2016.
“They were not invited this year because they just weren’t on the top of the list in terms of what they are doing right now and whether or not it was relevant to the values voters and who they want to hear from,” said Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council and chief organizer of the Values Voter Summit, which opened on Friday and ended Sept. 28.
“They shouldn’t take it the wrong way,” Perkins told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview taped on Friday.
But in his report, Brody said the two men had been “snubbed” and that’s not good news for any presidential aspirations they may harbor.
The Values Voter Summit is the pre-eminent venue for GOP candidates who hope to showcase their bona fides to the crucial conservative Christian bloc, and Christie and Bush — the elder brother of former President George W. Bush — are seen as Republicans who could appeal to the center of the electorate but who have not won the hearts of social conservatives.
The Republican National Committee on Friday launched its first web-based effort to rally conservative believers behind the party, a sign of how crucial voter turnout will be in this fall’s close-fought midterm elections and an indication that the GOP cannot take its evangelical Christian base for granted.
“This shouldn’t be outreach, this should be who we are — it is who we are,” said Chad Connelly, director of faith engagement for the Republican National Committee and the force behind this new initiative, GOPfaith.com.
Evangelicals, Connelly said, “are our biggest, most reliable voting bloc.”
The problem, however, is that even though evangelicals identify more closely than ever with the GOP, they have not been turning out at the polls in sufficient numbers to carry Republican candidates to victory.
Social conservatives on Thursday reacted sharply to a federal appeals court ruling that declared the law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges are "intent on imposing their liberal, elitist views of marriage on the American people,” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
In its unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel said the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, deprives same-sex couples the same rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples. The decision sets up a likely showdown in the Supreme Court and provides another culture war issue for the already contentious presidential campaign.
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