Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) says he’ll do just fine when it comes to evangelical Christian voters in the presidential race.
“I have a record as governor; I don’t have to talk about things. I actually acted on my core beliefs both as it relates to traditional marriage, which I support, and the sanctity of life, which I acted on on numerous occasions,” he told Fox News Channel’s Brian Kilmeade during a radio interview on Thursday.
Bush was responding to a recent New York Times article detailing how evangelical Christian activists are “unhappy” with his expected White House bid and are looking for a suitable alternative as a potential Republican presidential nominee.
The article quotes major leaders in the conservative Christian movement, including Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, activist David Lane, and Gary Bauer, a former Reagan official who once led the Family Research Council himself. The three leaders said the conservative community is hoping to coalesce around a suitable candidate but they were not quoted explicitly criticising the potential of Bush wining the GOP nomination.
For his part, Bush went out of his way to praise Perkins in his Thursday radio interview.
“Look, I have a lot of respect for Tony and his group. I talk to him, I have an open dialogue with him,” he said.
At another point in the conversation, Bush said he doesn’t even read The Times.
“I don’t read The New York Times, to be honest with you,” he said. (Some Times reporters were sceptical of that claim.)
The Family Research Council did not respond to a request for comment to confirm Bush’s assessment that he has an “open dialogue” with the group’s leader or for Perkins’ reaction to the article’s conclusion that conservatives were taking a pass on Bush.
Bauer, though, distanced himself from the article’s premise.
“I don’t make statements that are Bush specific,” he said. “I don’t recall at any point characterising efforts that are underway as being an attempt, being driven by being unhappy with Bush.”
In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the only big name that has yet to formally launch a campaign. He has gone to great lengths to tap into the religious right, starting with his campaign kickoff Monday at Liberty University, a Christian school founded by the late conservative pastor Jerry Falwell.
Cruz’s announcement was staged at the school’s convocation service, where student attendance is mandatory, and was sandwiched between the crowd singing the Chris Tomlin worship song “Our God” and a prayer by David Nasser, the school’s senior vice president for spiritual development who hailed Cruz as a “godly man.”
Bush, who is Catholic, could be a tough sell to staunch conservative Christian voters due to his softer tone on some social issues like same-sex marriage. In an attempt to bridge the gap, Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise, brought on evangelical Christian legal advocate as an adviser in early March.
Sekulow did not respond to a request for comment about The Times article on Bush.
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