In an interview, he dismissed Dr. Ben Carson — the famed neurosurgeon and likely 2016 candidate who has a passionate base of support among Christian conservatives — as “not viable” and a “consultant-driven candidate.” 

And Lane is among the many conservative strategists who blamed Fred Thompson’s lackluster yet impactful candidacy in 2008 for splitting the evangelical vote with Huckabee in South Carolina, which helped John McCain win a tight victory in the pivotal primary state.  

The goal now is to avoid a repeat of that scenario in 2016, whereby a contender hailing from the Republican establishment might benefit from several viable contenders splitting the vote among religious conservatives. 

It’s a message that several pastors on the trip who spoke to RealClearPolitics echoed.  

“We’re going to have multiple candidates this time, but it’s important that we pray through and try to find a consensus on one man and zero [in] on him,” said Johnny Touchet, the senior pastor at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Powdersville, S.C. 

It’ll be easier said than done.