Conservative Christian leaders are pushing back against the notion the religious Republican Party’s religious is mobilizing against former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R).
The New York Times reported Thursday that conservatives were “unhappy” with Bush and were on the hunt to “unite behind an alternative.” The paper cited three Christian 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.
However, all three of the alleged naysayers mentioned in the article have since declared rumours of their opposition to Bush are greatly exagerrated.
Perkins insisted in a statement, “I am not against Jeb. I’ve met with him, and there are several things I like about him.”
He added, “I have made myself available to all of the presidential contenders … my intentions are to come to a point where I will support the right candidate at the right time. Will that be Jeb Bush? I don’t know. But I do know that we share a mutual respect, a love for our country, and a desire to unite America behind a courageous man or woman who can repair the damage done by this administration and restore our faith in government.”
Bauer also backed away from claims he was dissatisfied with Bush and told Business Insider, “I don’t recall at any point characterising efforts that are underway as being an attempt, being driven by being unhappy with Bush.”
Lane also told Business Insider, “I haven’t said anything that about Jeb and Evangelicals.”
“I’ve said two things so far re: Jeb: 1) Jeb was a great Governor … and 2) I am confused of why he would surround himself politically with key aides who believe nothing that we believe on issues.”
Bush, who is a Catholic convert, has been perceived as perhaps too mild in how he communicates his faith compared to other Republicans he could face in the 2016 race, like the televangelist style of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Cruz kicked off his presidential campaign at Liberty University in a speech laden with spiritual overtones whereas Bush claims he wants to show his faith by his works.
“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 said during a radio interview with FOX News Channel’s Brian Kilmeade on Thursday, when asked about the Times article.
But his reticence on spiritual matters may proof a tough sell for the religious base.
“Jeb may have Jesus in his heart, but the Gospel isn’t on his lips so far, and religious voters want that,” Henry Olsen, from the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, told The National Journal in an article on Friday.
Though Bush has not been talkative about his relationship with the religious right, the magazine detailed how he has forged strategic relationships with a “camp of more pragmatic evangelical and Catholic leaders who are anything but hostile to Bush,” the magazine reported.
“In fact, they have taken turns meeting with the former governor over the past year and are positively smitten with him,” the article reported.
So far, Bush has held audiences with evangelical heavyweights including PR guru Mark DeMoss, former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, who now leads the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Focus on the Family President Jim Daly.
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