GOP wonders: Can we revive the evangelical base?

Long gone from the front lines are galvanizing leaders such as the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell, who died in 2007, and the Christian Coalition’s Pat Robertson. Today’s pastors are more likely to focus on propagating the Gospel than turning out the vote.

But the potential for a renewal of the movement is there, Republican leaders say, thanks in part to the enthusiasm that conservative Christians have shown for the tea party movement. In a Pew Research Center poll last year, 42 percent of tea party supporters said they agree with the religious right…

“What’s likely to happen is what a lot of us have wanted to see happen for a long time — a social conservative movement that speaks to a broader set of issues but which never strays from the foundational issues of life and family and marriage,” said longtime political operative Ralph Reed, who as a baby-faced 33-year-old leading the Christian Coalition in 1995 was dubbed “The Right Hand of God” on the cover of Time magazine…

“Among the older generation, there was a comfortable conflation between faith and partisanship. To be a Christian meant to be a Republican,” said Jonathan Merritt, a young evangelical leader whose father, Atlanta megachurch pastor James Merritt, is a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “What you’re finding is not a new evangelical left, but you’re finding a rise of political orphans.”