Evangelical Supporter Seeks to Rally Brethren for Romney
By Michael Luo
In a bid to derail Rudolph W. Giuliani’s surge in the polls and rally evangelical voters, an influential evangelical public relations executive wrote to some 150 top conservative Christian leaders warning of the prospect of a Giuliani or Hillary Rodham Clinton administration and prodding them to rally instead around Mitt Romney.
Mark DeMoss, a publicist whose clients include the Rev. Franklin Graham, penned a five-page letter, urging evangelical leaders to “galvanize support around Mitt Romney, so Mr. Giuliani isn’t the unintended beneficiary of our divided support among several candidates.” Or, “worse yet,” he warned, “so we don’t abdicate the presidency (and the future of the Supreme Court) over to Hillary Clinton.”
In an interview, Mr. DeMoss, who is a Romney supporter but is not paid by the campaign, said he sensed an opening for Mr. Romney at this point in the race, with Fred D. Thompson garnering lackluster reviews on the campaign trail and lesser-known candidates like Mike Huckabee continuing to struggle with fund-raising.
“A lot of things that a lot of conservatives have either been hoping for, or waiting for, are clearly not panning out,” he said.
He said he also wanted to warn his peers that time is running out to rally around someone.
“Look, you can’t wait and see too much longer, or we can tell you what you’re going to get, and it’s something you didn’t want apparently,” he said. “But there’s time to do something about it.”
In his letter, Mr. DeMoss cited three major concerns. First, he said, there is a very real prospect conservatives will split up their vote and wind up helping to elect Mr. Giuliani, “who clearly does not share our values on so many issues.”
Second, he said, he believes that conservative leaders who are threatening to bolt the Republican Party and support a third party candidate if Republicans nominate a candidate who supports abortion rights, like Mr. Giuliani, would only help elect Mrs. Clinton.
Finally, he said, he was troubled by talk he had been hearing from others that electing someone like Mrs. Clinton would actually be positive for the conservative movement because it would galvanize fund-raising and forces.
“I am not willing to risk negatively changing the Supreme Court, and our entire judicial system, for the next 30 years in exchange for bulding our conservative mailing lists and operating budgets for the next four or eight years,” he said.
Mr. DeMoss ticked off Mr. Romney’s qualifications and positive poll numbers in early voting states but also addressed his Mormon faith, which many evangelicals consider heretical.
“I fully recognize some evangelicals take issue with me for supporting a Mormon for the office of president, and I respect their concerns,” he said in the letter. “Indeed, I had to deal with the same concerns in my own heart before offering to help Gov. Romney. But I concluded that I am more concerned that a candidate share my values than he shares my theology.”
He went on to say, “as a Southern Baptist evangelical and political conservatives, I am convinced I have more in common with most Mormons than I do with a liberal Southern Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic or a liberal from any other denomination or faith group.”
Mr. DeMoss even invoked his late friend, Jerry Falwell, who Mr. DeMoss described as his first employer, a second father and political mentor. The Moral Majority, created by Mr. Falwell, brought together, “evangelicals and like-minded Roman Catholics, Jews, and yes, Mormons.”
He said Falwell was among about 15 evangelicals who gathered at Mr. Romney’s home early in the campaign to quiz him on his views. He said Falwell told Mr. Romney that he did not have a problem with his Mormonism but wanted to know where he stood on the issues.
Mr. DeMoss also addressed skepticism about the authenticity of Mr. Romney’s relatively recent conversion from supporter of abortion rights to opponent, noting the whole point of the anti-abortion movement was to convince people to change their positions.
But at the heart of his memo is a series of hypotheticals. “Someone is almost certain to appoint two, three, or four justices to the Supreme Court. Do we want that person to be Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney?”
“Someone will deal with the definition of marriage in America — and will either defend and model a faithful marriage and strong family, or not. Who should that person be?”
“Someone will either defend unborn life — or defend those who place their rights and deisres above those who can’t be defined themselves. Would we prefer that Clinton, Giuliani or Romney be in that position?”
He closed by urging the leaders to familiarize themselves with the primary calendar and the urgency of the schedule and to “pray fervently for this election.”