Power Play: This week we could see where the social conservative group, the Family Leader, wants to put its support. President/CEO Bob Vander Plaats told me the group's 7-member board (BVP is not on the board but he said he has "influence" on it) will meet on Monday. This follows the group's Thanksgiving Family Forum at a Des Moines church Saturday before more than 2,500 people. BVP said the purpose of the meeting is to decide whether to endorse 1 of the 6 Republican presidential candidates who spoke at the group's event. The endorsement process has been more than a bit confusing. It was widely understood that to get the endorsement, a candidate had to sign the group's marriage pledge. If you recall, there's some controversy about the pledge, not the current one, but the original one. The original pledge (or at least the preamble to it) included a section critics found highly objectionable. Here it is:
"Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President."
The slavery line caused a firestorm as critics said it insinuated black children today were worse off than black slave children. BVP disagreed with critics' interpretation, although he dropped that part of the pledge. He told me, "I don't think it hurt our credibility because we got attacked by the left."
But only two candidates, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, actually signed the pledge (before BVP dropped the controversial line). However, despite what many people may have thought, BVP told me his group could still endorse someone other than the 2 candidates who signed the pledge. He told me, "The pledge is definitely part of the process. If you take a look at the pledge it says, unless you affirm the pledge. It doesn't actually say sign it...unless you affirm the pledge."
He continued, "Obviously, Bachmann and Santorum have a leg up. They signed it, a pretty good affirmation of the pledge."
An endorsement for either of those candidates would be interesting, at least if you follow the polls. Bachmann, who once led the polls following her win in the Republican Party of Iowa's Straw Poll in Ames in August, has tanked since. Santorum has remained near the bottom of the polls throughout this race. An endorsement for either could bring a much-needed boost for the candidates. Although, it's tough to know how much of a boost. The Family Leader doesn't say how many members it has. So we don't really know how many people would be willing to go out and actively push either Bachmann or Santorum to Iowans. And would this push be enough to lift one of them to a caucus night win? The January 3rd caucuses are only about a month away, after all.
The group could go in another direction altogether for its endorsement, but it would seem every other choice might not go over completely well with the base based on purity. How about Rick Perry? Remember when he said, "Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me.” Perry tried damage control later and said he supports states' rights but doesn't support same-sex marriage.
Herman Cain? Cain's struggled, in some conservatives' minds, answering the abortion question. Would he try to rid of the country of abortions or not? Some questions there.
Newt Gingrich, the man of 3 marriages...yeah, there's that.
Ron Paul? He had that awkward appearance in Pella, during the Family Leader's Presidential Lecture Series when he said he supports states' rights (in light of the state supreme court decision allowing same-sex marriages in Iowa).
So, that just leaves Mitt Romney, right? BVP's response, "It's not good for Mr. Romney." BVP said Romney would not get the endorsement. He added his group could choose to endorse no one. Of course, that would make people wonder what the purpose of the lecture series, family forum and pledge were about though.
Monday could be an interesting day for the Family leader, don't ya think?