On a call with political reporters this morning, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised Mitt Romney, saying that of the 2008 Republican presidential field, “he has been the strongest on the core social issues.”
“He has made these issues more front and center than other candidates who are social conservatives have… more than even Mike Huckabee and some of the others,” said Perkins, whose group is perhaps the strongest conservative evangelical lobby. FRC is sponsoring a summit in Washington this month that will feature all the top-tier GOP presidential hopefuls, most of the other Republican hopefuls, and a straw poll of over 2000 social conservatives.
Addressing Romney’s political conversion on issues like gay rights and abortion rights, which he formerly supported, Perkins said “I personally do believe [he’s] genuine.” At the same time, Perkins hinted that Romney’s Mormonism would continue to be a hurdle for conservative Christian voters, discouraging him from delivering his own version of JFK’s 1960 “Catholic speech.” “There are a lot of commonalities between the Protestant and Catholic faiths,” Perkins said. “And with Mormonism, there’s a lot of distinctions.”
“Further down the path, when people are comfortable with his positions, he can have a dialogue about the differences in faith, but it interjects too many unknowns right now,” Perkins said. “He’s still in the process of solidifying support on policy positions. Once he’s done that, he can address other issues.”
“I think he should just keep doing what he’s doing,” Perkins continued. “I can see that he’s making some inroads [among evangelicals and other social conservatives].”
Though the Family Research Council announced last week that Rudy Giuliani would be speaking at its “Values Voter Summit,” a rare appearance for the ex-Mayor before a conservative Christian audience, Perkins said Giuliani could not muster enough evangelical support to beat Hillary Clinton in a general election match-up. “They’ll get excited about [defeating] Hillary Clinton but I don’t see it as enough to put him over the top,” Perkins said. “Evangelicals are about half and half. Half say under no circumstance would they vote for him and half said they would.”