Some on the Christian right remain skeptical of the effort to settle on a single socially conservative candidate. Similar attempts in 2008 and 2012 collapsed because no consensus was reached, they say. And it is unclear what impact an endorsement by national social conservatives would have on a primary competition that will probably be driven by abundant outside money, debate performances and long months of retail campaigning.
“I think it’s a useless process,” said David Lane, who arranges expenses-paid meetings of conservative pastors to hear from potential candidates, most recently at a gathering in Des Moines where Mr. Cruz and Mr. Jindal spoke. “My goal is to give the constituency access to candidates, then let them decide.”
But participants in the effort say that the lessons of recent elections have sunk in, and that this time they will not allow their debate to devolve into discord.
“I think everybody understands — more, even, at the grass-roots level — that there has been a pattern, and the pattern needs to be broken,” said Gary L. Bauer, a conservative activist and a former presidential candidate. He led an effort called the Arlington Group that tried to galvanize support for a social conservative standard-bearer in the 2008 and 2012 elections.