2012: Who’s the pick for Christian conservatives?

“The supposed frontrunners have all got problems,” says Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a prominent leader of the religious right. Mitt Romney? “He put ‘Obamacare Light’ in place in Massachusetts,” says Land. “It’s going to be awfully difficult for him to surmount that.” Sarah Palin? “Her problem is her very high negatives. Evangelicals want somebody they like, but they also want somebody who can beat Barack Obama.” Mike Huckabee? “The problem Mike’s got is that he and Sarah Palin are appealing to the same base, and Sarah has stronger appeal to that base.” And Newt Gingrich? “Two ex-wives is one ex-wife too many for most evangelicals.”…

“I think it will be a little different,” says Staver. “We’ll get behind a candidate earlier … and there will be less fracture.” To help ensure that that’s the case, Staver founded the Freedom Federation two years ago, bringing together some of the largest faith-based organizations in the country, including the Family Research Council and the Traditional Values Coalition. Consider it a more grassroots-oriented counterpart to the Arlington Group. It “will really help to bring evangelical leaders and policy leaders together to talk and vet [candidates],” says Staver, “as opposed to being isolated and making conflicting decisions.”

Some Christian conservatives wonder whether that’s wishful thinking, though. “The fragmentation has always been there,” says Frank Wright, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, who argues that the Christian right is such a vast, varied community that it’s unreasonable to expect it to speak with a single voice. “I think any effort to try to get evangelicals to rally behind one candidate is doomed from the start.”

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