By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
Evangelical conservatives, in general, want candidates who
are strong in their Christian faith as a prerequisite for further
Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Paul Ryan,
Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum clear that hurdle with room to spare. Chris
Christie, on the other hand, does not. He’s openly stated that his Christian
faith has no impact, for instance, on his stance toward homosexuality. So
Christie is out.
The rest of the field appears, from all indications, to be
solid on the sanctity of human life. Because of their opportunity to use
executive authority to advance the cause of the unborn, Gov. Huckabee and Gov.
Perry have the advantage here. Gov. Huckabee has been a tireless advocate for
the unborn and has often and with little fanfare supported efforts to protect
babies in the womb. However, Gov. Perry’s record on the life issue is unmatched
by any governor in the country. Advantage Perry on this one.
They all generally appear to be strong on the issue of
natural marriage, with Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee the frontrunners. Gov.
Perry in particular openly celebrated the passage of Texas’s amendment
protecting natural marriage, and has been an unbending defender of the family.
Cruz, on the other hand, was disappointingly tepid when he had the opportunity
to defend and promote natural marriage by instead emphasizing it as a state
Paul Ryan has probably removed himself from contention
through his sponsorship of his budget-busting deal with Patty Murray, just as
Rubio has done through his misguided decision to the champion of amnesty. Ryan
and Rubio are done.
Sen. Santorum will simply be unable to generate the kind of
momentum necessary to run a viable campaign, so Santorum is out, more for
pragmatic reasons than principled ones.
Mike Huckabee is obviously an attractive candidate to
evangelicals. He’s unapologetic about his faith, and strong on the sanctity of
marriage and life. He can say to evangelicals with complete credibility, “I do
not come to you; I come from you.” He has a very appealing presence, is
articulate, and likeable. Even his political foes feel an affection for him.
Evangelical concerns that will have to be satisfied come
from his early support for Common Core, and his mixed record in Arkansas on
taxes, welfare and immigration.
He has renounced his support for Common Core, claiming it
has morphed into something that he does not recognize. How convincing his
renunciation was is still to be determined. I believe the immigration issue is
going to be a sticky one for the governor, and unless he comes out for an
emphatic border-security-first, build-a-fence plan on immigration, he’s going
to have trouble here. Huckabee will be in the hunt, but knowledgeable
evangelicals are going to want answers to some direct questions first.
Cruz is obviously running for the presidency, as he was the
only senator to make the trip to South Africa for the Mandela funeral, which
gave him the opportunity to look presidential. Cruz has given somewhat tepid
responses to questions about natural marriage, resorting to the bromide that it
is an issue for the states to decide. While that is true, he passed on the
opportunity to give a Santorum-like, ringing defense of marriage and the
But he is an obviously principled candidate, who is willing
to take the arrows to move us back to some semblance of fiscal sanity. He is
articulate. You will never have to worry about a Rick Perry “oops” moment with
him, and that smoothness and ability to out-debate any political opponent will be
enormously attractive to evangelicals, who are eager for a champion of
conservative values who can articulate them and defend them against all comers.
Rand Paul’s great advantage is his determination to uphold
the Constitution, limit the size of government to its constitutionally
authorized powers, and restrain out-of-control government spending and
regulation. He and Rick Perry - the only candidate who has pledged “to take a
wrecking ball” to Washington - are leaders of the pack here. Rand Paul strikes
me as a man who would wield the veto pen with relish, as would Gov. Perry.
Paul’s liability is his tendency toward libertarianism
rather than conservatism. His expressed preference to get the government out of
the marriage-recognition business is a concern for evangelicals, particularly
since it creates dangerous instability for children and enormous uncertainty
over child-custody issues in cases of divorce.
His openness to legalizing marijuana is likewise
problematic, as we have witnessed a spiking of marijuana use among teens in
Colorado and increasing concerns among law enforcement officials there about
the connection between legalized marijuana and crime. He also supports amnesty
once the border is secure, which generates concern.
Rick Perry is clearly running for the presidency, as his
visits to South Carolina and Iowa and his cross-country trips to celebrate the
economic successes he’s helped to accomplish in Texas indicate.
In the 2012 campaign, he tripped up on immigration, admitted
he goofed on Gardasil as governor, and his “Oops” moment will be very tough to
overcome. He’s actually quite articulate in defending conservative values in
almost every interview I’ve seen, but that one brain freeze will make the media
eager to pounce on any verbal miscue and will make evangelicals anxiously grip
the edge of their chairs in public debates. And he’ll need to convince
Americans that border security will be his first and only priority before
attention is given to any other immigration issue.
The great advantage Gov. Perry has is that of the four most
attractive candidates to evangelicals right now (along with Cruz, Paul and
Huckabee), he has over a decade of effective executive experience and has
proven that he knows how to use the powers of the executive office to promote
sound social and economic principles. That’s a huge electoral plus in light of
the chaos a president with no executive experience has created in our land
through ineptitude and misplaced values.
Bottom line: as far as evangelical concerns go, in the first
furlong of this long race, Ted Cruz is the frontrunner, Rick Perry ought to be,
Rand Paul is not far behind, and Mike Huckabee is fourth. They will be
jockeying for position until June of 2016.
noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect
the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)