With only a week to go until the South Carolina primary, a group of 150 conservative evangelical Christian leaders are gathering today and tomorrow at a ranch in Texas to decide whether they will endorse a candidate in the race. The effort to throw their collective weight behind a consensus candidate signals the dissatisfaction currently felt by many evangelical leaders about a Romney candidacy. As CNN’s Eric Marrapodi observes: “Romney is the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination but many social conservative leaders aren’t exactly gaga over him.”
This campaign season has already seen its share of endorsement-related drama (remember Iowa, where the leading social conservative organization, the Iowa FAMiLY Leader, declined to endorse any of the candidates, while its president threw his support behind Santorum?). But will the decision that comes out of this weekend’s much-vaunted meeting actually matter?
In a new piece for NPR, our CEO, Dr. Robert P. Jones, says that the Texas assembly’s ultimate selection (if they succeed in collectively backing anyone) will likely have little impact on voters’ picks.
“Gone are the days of the kingmakers who can sit in a room and decide who the evangelical candidate is,” explained Dr. Jones. “Focus on the Family has laid off hundreds of people. The Moral Majority is no more. The Christian Coalition is no more. So these groups that really were able to translate these decisions made in closed rooms by a group of men deciding who was going to be the next candidate really don’t exist in the way they did.”
A new study from the Pew Research Center backs him up: endorsements just don’t seem to matter all that much, whether they are from respected newspapers, prominent politicians, or trusted religious leaders. Perhaps most tellingly, 7-in-10 Republican and Republican-leaning voters, (and nearly as many voters overall), say that public support for a candidate by their religious leader would have no effect on their vote.
Check out the full NPR piece here.